The Great Uruguayan Tannat


Tannat is a red-wine grape whose origins lie in the Basque country, on the border between France and Spain. Here, in the shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains, the terrain is rough and rugged, so it is only fitting that Tannat should create wines which are equally deep, dark, dry and rustic.

Although Tannat is still used among the foothills here, the most famous Tannat wine is made a little way to the north, in Madiran. The name of this tiny village, which is also home to the less-famous white Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, is virtually synonymous with that of the Tannat grape, even though Tannat is also used in nearby Irouleguy, Tursan and Bearn. Although this remains the case for now, it is likely to change as a result of Tannat's success in the Americas (notably Uruguay), where it has made quite an impression.

Tannat makes powerful, tannic wines with dark garnet red/purple color, and good acidity, making it a great candidate for aging. Notable aromas are raspberry, blackberry, spice, coffee, cocoa and vanilla. Throughout the world, Tannat is also known as Harriague, Moustrou, Moustroun, and Bordeleza Belcha.

One of the reasons for the growth and popularity of Tannat just might have to do with research concerning the phenolic compounds that are found in the Tannat grape, which are significantly higher than in other red wine grapes, and subsequently, in the wines that are made from Tannat. In case you are unaware, tannins come from the skins and the seeds of the grapes when crushed. And it just so happens that Tannat grapes have five seeds (pips), while normal red wine grapes contain just two or three.

These additional seeds create a higher concentration of polyphenols, procyanidins, flavenoids, and resveratrol, which are the four main antioxidants found in red wine, and Tannat has been identified by leading researchers as having the highest concentration of these compounds.