Forbes, Jill Barth, Nov. 2018

Forbes, Jill Barth, Nov. 2018

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Sauvignon Blanc from Uruguay over-delivers on value, freshness and flavor. It's affordable, interesting, food-friendly and delicious—a balanced white wine for any season.

Uruguay is located in South America, a country of just under 3.5M people nestled between neighbors Argentina to the west and Brazil to the east. The southern border of the country is coastal, shared with the mouth of the Rio de la Plata and the wide-open Atlantic Ocean into which it empties.

On the opposite side of the river lies Buenos Aires, a ferry ride away. The capital city is Montevideo which is located on the mid-Atlantic coast—drive a couple of hours east and experience Punta del Este, a beach resort city popular with jet-setters around the globe.

Immigrants from Europe brought vines to Uruguay, a country with no indigenous grape growth. The origins of Sauvignon Blanc are linked to France, where some of the world's most notable bottles are made in the Loire Valley. It is now considered "part of the history" of Uruguay, according to Federico De Moura, a four-time recipient of the Best Sommelier in Uruguay, as awarded by the country's professional organization.

"Uruguay wines have the qualities consumers are looking for," says Pia Carrau, manager of Cerro Chapeu winery in the Rivera department of Uruguay. These days wine lovers around the world seek options that are low in alcohol and exhibit freshness. Coastal Atlantic Uruguay has plenty of rain, sunshine and drying maritime breezes to enhance expressive acidity in Sauvignon Blanc.

Found in blends and as a single variety wine, Uruguayan producers craft Sauvignon Blanc in a range of styles: with and without oak treatment and even as a component of sparkling wines. It can be enjoyed fresh and young or aged for several years. It is generally produced as a dry wine but can be an element of dessert wines also. 

Bodega Cerro Chapeu is an example of a Sauvignon Blanc aged "Sur Lie".
The profile of Uruguayan Sauvignon Blanc often exhibits white blossom, tropical and citrus aromatics with flavors expressing minerality, herbs, passionfruit and white fruit. Overall, Sauvignon Blanc tends to be less grassy and vegetal than its counterpart from New Zealand, another Southern Hemisphere region well known for the variety. It is a wine of moderate body and Uruguayan winemakers often make it "Sur Lie", a technique where aging wine maintains contact with spent yeast cells—this contributes to a rounder mouthfeel and balances green tendencies.

"Sauvignon Blanc is a great wine of Uruguay," says De Moura. Look for bottles from producers Pizzorno Family Estates, Bodega Cerro Chapeu, Familia Deicas/Establecimiento Juanico, Antigua Bodega Stagnari, Marichal and Bodega Garzón. Expect to pay less than $15-$20 per bottle—an excellent value for high-quality wine, most made by family producers with generations of experience.

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