When my parents were in town they decided that they wanted to get out of the city a bit and sample some of Uruguay’s fine wines. Luckily there is a small, yet popular, winery and vineyards about 20 minutes from downtown Montevideo called Bouza Bodega Boutique. They specialize in low quantity, high quality wines.
They made a reservation for the three of us to get a tour of the winery and vineyards and then do a tasting. We headed out there in a taxi, only having to pay about $15 US. The sky was blue and the grass was bright green. It was a perfect day.
The property was built in 1942 as a small farmstead and church. It was refurbished in 2002 to it’s present state consisting of a restaurant and fermentation rooms. They have also expanded their operation to have a small farm where they produce milk and raise chickens and cattle (all in small quantities). The vineyards produce grapes of 5 different varieties including two whites and three reds: albariño, chardonnay, merlot, tempranillo, and tannat. Tannat is a varietal famous in Uruguay.
The tour started off with their classic car collection. The Bouza family has a collection of more than 30 vehicles representative of those driven since the 1920’s in Uruguay and includes Fords, Fiats, Vespas, and Volkswagons. They even have an old railcar from 1929 on display in the gardens.
From there the tour went into the vineyard where the tour guide discussed the different varieties of grapes that were grown and how and when they are harvested.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the tour was all in spanish. The tour guide knew english very well and told us that if we didn’t understand (we told her we spoke a little spanish) to ask her and she would explain in english. I must say that I understood the majority of what she was saying and relayed to my parents when needed. Progress is being made on my spanish skills.
The next stop on the tour was the primary fermentation room where they have wines fermenting for up to 8 months in steel, cement, or oak barrels. The differences between the containers being the amount of oxygen and flavor (in the case of the oak) imparted to the wine.
Following that, we headed to the cellar where the wines undergo a secondary fermentation in american and french oak barrels for up to 3 months. This is also where they store bottled wine for at least 6 months before it is sold in stores. There is also a special section of the cellar under the floor where the winery maintains about 40 bottles of it’s wine from each harvest year for posterity. For being a small operation, there were quite a few barrels in the cellar.
That ended the tour and we were led back to the restaurant and seated at a table dressed with one large glass and four smaller glasses at each place-setting. Pretty soon a setting of bread with various cheeses and meats was brought to the table along with four bottles of wine. The man leading us through the tasting spoke very good english and did a great job explaining each of the wines to us. He went through each wine individually, explaining and pouring, until he had gone through all four wines and then left us alone to taste them. It was much nicer tasting at a table with snacks than the usual tasting standing up at a bar.
The wines… The first was their “Vino Blanco” which was a special mix of albariño and chardonnay grapes that they make only for their tasting room and for sale at the vineyard (i.e. it cannot be bought in stores). The second was a merlot. The third was a merlot-tannat mix and the fourth was their special 2011 tannat. This wine was special because it was purportedly the best grape harvest in the last 40 years for taste, and because of this they did not apply a secondary fermentation to it. The result is a very strong-flavored, crisp, 15.5% alcohol content wine.
We enjoyed all the wines, but my favorite was the tannat, my mom’s was the merlot-tannat mix, and my dad seemed to enjoy all of them (especially toward the end, wink wink!). Of course we couldn’t leave without purchasing a few bottles, especially because they were cheaper than expected (in the $12-15 US range).
We had them call us a cab and we made our way back to the city, tired and a bit tipsy, but very happy!