When someone mentions wine from Uruguay, there is usually one of two responses:
- I don’t like Tannat, it’s too tannic,
- Uruguay makes wine?
Bodega Garzón from Uruguay hopes to wipe out both of these responses by bringing their wines to you to enjoy. And that is what they did recently for me and a group of other wine trade people in Vancouver.
Who is Bodega Garzon?
First off, Uruguay is situated at the same latitude as the wine growing regions of Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It’s located along the east coast of South America, sandwiched between Brasil and Argentina. The capital city, Montevideo, is a short 45 minute flight from Buenos Aires; that is like flying from Vancouver to Kelowna. Bodega Garzón is located near Punta del Este, a seaside resort area, a 2 hr drive from Montevideo.
Bodega Garzón started the first commercial winery in the Punta del Este area, trying out a multitude of different grape varieties in the vineyard; a vineyard that is made of 1200 vineyard blocks, over 220 ha. Being close to the ocean helps cool the vines so that they can mature longer, keeping their acidity and reaching full phenolic ripeness. Their soil is made from altered granite; granite I have been told gives energy to wine. From other seminars I have attended in the past, winery owners want either limestone or granite for their vineyards, as these produce the best flavoured grapes.
The owners, Alejandro Bulgheroni and his wife, Bettina, discovered the small town of Garzón in 1999; they saw in it their “little Uruguayan Tuscany”. They grow olives and grapes, and are very mindful of the environment, making energy efficiency, low-carbon emissions and more a priority for their winery. No herbicides or pesticides in the vineyards. To them a live soil is very important. It has porosity for air and water that helps microbiology develop in the soil. Adding compost helps to energize the soil and allows the roots will grow very deep. All the grapes are hand sorted on tables to select the best grapes for their wines and natural yeasts are used for fermentation. They use some oak in the winery, but mainly concrete tanks for vinification.
What Wines Do They Make?
As I mentioned that this is still a relatively new endeavor for Bodega Garzón. Which grapes produce the best wines, from which of their micro terroir sites? To help answer these questions, they hired Italian oenologist Alberto Antonini to help select the grapes to plant and to consult with their wine maker. Alberto led the seminar for us, showing us their wines, and explaining their vision and vinification process. Alberto noted that Tannat and Albarino was the main two grapes that they concentrated on, in part as Tannat has grown successfully in Uruguay for over a hundred years, and Albarino as the climate of the area is similar to where it grows well in Spain. And they were right, as you shall see. But which grape surprised Alberto? Read on.
The wines we had a chance to sample were:
- Bodega Garzón Pinot Grigio Estate 2016
- Bodega Garzón Sauvignon Blanc Estate 2016
- Bodega Garzón Viognier Estate 2016
- Bodega Garzón Albarino Reserve 2016
- Bodega Garzón Albarino 2016
- Bodega Garzón Pinot Noir Rose Estate 2016
- Bodega Garzón Cabernet Franc-Tannat Estate 2015
- Bodega Garzón Tannat-Merlot Estate 2015
- Bodega Garzón Marselan Reserve 2015
- Bodega Garzón Cabernet Franc Reserve 2015
- Bodega Garzón Tannat Reserve 2015
- Bodega Garzón Pinot Noir 2015 Single Vineyard
- Bodega Garzón Petit Verdot 2015 Single Vineyard
- Bodega Garzón Tannat 2015 Single Vineyard
They have 3 tiers of wine, starting with Estate, then to Reserve, and finally Single Vineyard. Each a step up in quality. For the white wines, Alberto prefers to whole cluster press the wines, keep them on their lees, and only rack the wines if it is needed. For the red wines, extraction of flavour is good, but not to over-extract the wines leaving harsh tannins. To do this they do not do pumping and push down of the cap during fermentation; they just keep the cap wet. Fermentation for the reds are done in concrete and large, untoasted oak barrels (which do not pass on any additional flavours to the wine). “Why add flavours to great quality grapes?“, if I may paraphrase Alberto.
How Do These Wines Taste?
Following are my brief tasting notes from this tasting. Not quite as detailed as I would like, but there were many wines to try.
- Bodega Garzón Pinot Grigio Estate 2016 – Stone fruit, apples and pear aromas in the glass. Dry with a light soft mouth feel. Fresh fruit flavours of apples and pears, along with a mineral streak. Medium plus acidity. Some pepperiness on the finish. An interesting wine. –
- Bodega Garzón Sauvignon Blanc Estate 2016 – A mix of guava, citrus, floral and green aromas. Quite aromatic. Medium body, with a bigger, rounder mouth feel. Dry. Honey and jalapeno flavours to start with peach and lime later on. You get different layers of fruit coming through on this wine. No flavour overpowers the other. Tart grapefruit finish.
- Bodega Garzón Viognier Estate 2016 – Light intensity nose, with aromas of ripe peach, and hints of honey and flint. Medium body, dry, and round, with a significant mineral component. A rich mouth feel. Light stone fruit with honey and pepper toward the finish. Medium acidity. Good quality.
- Bodega Garzón Albarino Reserve 2016 – Ripe peach along with a minty herbal and sweet floral nose. Reminds me a bit of Gewürztraminer aromas. Medium plus body, round and rich mouth feel. Medium acid and mineral in the mouth. Peach, along with some citrus pith and light spice/pepper on the tongue. Mouth watering finish.
- Bodega Garzón Albarino Single Vineyard 2016 – Medium intensity nose consisting of peach, together with floral and herbaceousness. Dry, medium plus body, viscous with juicy tropical fruit and spearmint flavours (which is what makes this wine unique to me). There is also some stone fruit flavours and pepper to this wine. An interesting wine. –
- Bodega Garzón Pinot Noir Rose Estate 2016 – Light wild rose petal colour in the glass, with fresh, bright strawberry aromas on the nose. Dry, medium body, semi-round mouth feel. Red, tart cherries and strawberries with a hint of minerality. An easy sipper.
- Bodega Garzón Cabernet Franc-Tannat Estate 2015 – Deep garnet with a solid core. Deep, ripe black plums, and intense ripe dark fruit aromas on the nose. Fuller bodied, round, with a mix of black and white pepper, ripe plums, licorice and a hint of cedar and sweet spices. Fine tannins. An easy drinking red wine. –
- Bodega Garzón Tannat-Merlot Estate 2015 – Deep garnet, almost translucent in the glass. Ripe cassis and juicy red fruit aromas. Full body, dry and round. Medium minus flavour intensity of red fruit. Shorter length. An ok wine.
- Bodega Garzón Marselan Reserve 2015 – Marselan is a red French wine grape variety that is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. It is not very common, at least to us in BC. This wine had a closed nose, possibly needing more decanting time to open up. Fuller bodied, with strong oak, ripe red fruits, some floral, and firm tannins. Quite fruity.
- Bodega Garzón Cabernet Franc Reserve 2015 – Capsicum prominent on the nose. Full body, chalky, dark chocolate, ripe cassis, black cherries and nutmeg/sweet spices on the palate. Fine tannins, but still enough firmness for structure. A very tasty wine.
- Bodega Garzón Tannat Reserve 2015 – Opaque ruby in the glass. Another wine with a closed nose. Medium plus body, dry and soft, with some minerality. Floral, vanilla and raspberry flavours. Medium acid and medium plus tannins. Overall quite fruity. An approachable Tannat.
- Bodega Garzón Pinot Noir 2015 Single Vineyard – Medium translucent garnet colour. Medium intensity nose, with smoky raspberries and violet aromas. Medium plus body, dry and round. Red fruit primarily, with some floral and toasted oak behind. A pretty wine. –
- Bodega Garzón Petit Verdot 2015 Single Vineyard – Opaque garnet in the glass. Meaty, cassis nose. Full bodied with a heavy, round mouth feel. Dark purple fruit, light tannins, and a hint of sweetness on the finish. An OK wine.
- Bodega Garzón Tannat 2015 Single Vineyard – Solid garnet coloured. Closed nose, but I was able to pick up some red fruit aromas. Fuller bodied, mineral, dry. Very flowery, together with plum flavours. Soft with heavy mouth feel. Medium acid and medium plus tannins. I really like this wine.
Cabernet Franc was the grape that surprised Alberto. It grows very well and as you can see from my notes makes a good quality, flavourful wine of character. I would like to add that all of the white wines also really impressed me and I wouldn’t hesitate to order any of them in a restaurant.
Where Can I Buy These Wines?
Three of Bodega Garzon’s wines are available through the BC gov liquor stores as part of the Vancouver International Wine Festival (when this inventory is gone, these wines will not be available at the BCLDB): Sauvignon Blanc ($23.49), Tannat (I am guessing the Reserve) ($23.49 but on sale for $21.49 till end of March), and the Viognier ($19.99).
EverythingWine has their Tannat and Albarino in stock. I guess that other private stores also have some of these wines.
In general the pricing for all the wines I’ve mentioned when they are all in BC will be approximately: