Awhile back I did a close up look at Tannat in my feature Let’s Talk (and Taste) Tannat. Here, I focused on Tannats coming out of California and Oregon because, well, as a West Coaster, that’s what I have access to. The truth is, however, that Tannat is somewhat the “heritage grape” of Uruguay — a region I’ve only recently began to explore through various media tasting events. After reading my take on Tannat, I was quickly put into contact with Artesana, a boutique estate winery located in the Canelones region of Uruguay.
Founded in 2007 by American Blake Heinemann and under the dual, female winemaking talents of Analía Lazaneo and Valentina Gati, Artesana focuses on small-lot wine productions of Tannat, Tannat blends, and Zinfandel from the estate’s Las Brujas vineyard. The even smaller production of Merlot is used exclusively for their signature red blend, affectionately referred to as “TMZ.” And while there may be more than a few Tannat-based blends (and certainly other more popular blends that utilize a small percentage of Tannat), Artesana is the only producer that creates this precise mixture.
“I like rosés with lower alcohol and more freshness,” says Yannick Rousseau, owner and winemaker of Y.Rousseau Wines. “Of course,” he adds, “being made from 100% Tannat, the wine has a lot of structure and backbone, and so can actually be a great alternative to some lighter reds on warm summer days.” Perfect. Personally, I’m always looking for a rosé with some life to it. Something that, at a cooler temp, is perfect as an aperitif, but can last the whole evening with flavors and textures that amplify as it comes to room temp. With Y. Rousseau’s Rosé of Tannat you can actually rosé pretty much all day…
Troon Vineyard may have a 40 year old winemaking history, but they seem to be on the cusp of what’s new and innovative in winemaking. Not out to make the fast, easy sell, they embrace what their little piece of Oregon terroir has to offer — climate and terrain similar to the Old World France and Spain, and yet still uniquely Oregonian. That means their focus is on under-appreciated grapes: Vermentino, Tannat, Malbec, simply because this is what grows best. (Learn more about Troon Vineyard’s Applegate Valley)
As Craig Camp says, “If you want to bring real pleasure to peoples lives, your wines have to have personalities as interesting as the people that drink them.” (You can read more of Craig’s thoughts on Troon Vineyard’s Wine Camp Blog.)
“Tannat Russian River Valley is made to introduce people to the world of Tannat,” says Yannick Rousseau, owner and winemaker at Y.Rousseau Wines. Indeed, with grapes harvested from the temperate, friendly terroir of Sonoma’s valley floor and a little love from blending a bit of California-based varietals, there’s no better way to dip your toe into Tannat. But what the heck — let’s just dive right in…
“All for Wine,
WINE FOR ALL!” — Yannick Rousseau
Tannat — an often forgotten grape varietal, one that is rarely seen in a single-varietal bottling. It’s thick-skinned, tannic, acidic, and a gothic shade of purple. To look at it, you may think angry thoughts — and to prevent those angry thoughts when drinking, winemakers often blend Tannat with the more voluptuous Cabernet Franc or Merlot — or, in Uruguay, even Pinot Noir. (Learn more about the origins of Tannat.)
But there seems to be a recent turn of events. Maybe it’s because the warm-weathered Uruguay has adopted the lonely variety as their heritage grape. Maybe it’s because “weird” wine is now some kind of fad. Or maybe, maybe, winemakers and drinkers alike have discovered that there’s no need to be afraid of the dark. Remember,
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”