Tannat is a red grape, usually found in southern France. It was introduced to Uruguay in the 19th Century, and is now considered Uruguay’s “national grape.”
From what I’ve read of Tannat, it has very high tannin levels (I do love tannic wines), and is best served with lamb or beef. I recently purchased a bottle of the 2017 Pisano Río de Los Pájaros Reserve Tannat, a wine originating from Progreso, Uruguay.
Ideally, given Tannat’s reputation for high tannins, and the rather young age of the wine, I probably should have waited another year or two before opening it. I didn’t. (I am, however, open to purchasing another bottle and remembering I have it in a few years). The nose had some funk to it, unfortunately reminiscent of that wet towel you forgot you put at the bottom of the laundry basket. It wasn’t overpowering, but it was present. I’m brave, and it’s a young vintage, and it didn’t seem like full on “fault,” so I decided to give it a go. After a glass, it seemed like decanting was a good idea. The funk didn’t transfer over to any flavor notes, but the fruit would disappear and reappear while the wine was sorting out what it wanted to do with its new best friend, oxygen.
After a few hours, the funk was gone from the nose, and in its place, black cherry, a slight amount of smokiness and fig, and some forest floor. The tannins mellowed considerably, and the fruit decided to remain present. Additionally, there are bits of black currant and lingonberry on the palate. Tannins and acid are still very present. You’re going to want something high in protein to work with the tannins on this one. That said, the overall experience was rewarding.
Based on its reputation, I was expecting something similar to a Cabernet Sauvignon. Tannat is definitely its own creature, and my expectations were dashed – in a good way. There is a complexity to the wine that has me curious for more. The next bottle I purchase will either be an older vintage, or a bottle that I will deliberately forget about for a while.
But what about dessert?
By pure coincidence, I also stumbled upon a Tannat dessert wine. Tannat dessert wine?? Sure! Bring it on!
It turns out that Madera Sella (also from Uruguay, and no website at the moment, it seems), makes a lovely dessert Tannat. I found a bottle of the “Limited Edition” 2014.
From the back label:
“Tannat Dessert wine is made from the ripest and most concentrated Tannat grapes using the same traditional methods in the famous vintage ports. The fermentation is stopped with the addition of high-quality Tannat alcohol or Brandy, thereby retaining some of the natural sugars in the grape juice and achieving 16 to 18 degrees of alcohol. The result is a rich wine that is naturally sweet and has been matured for one year in oak barrels. Tannat Dessert wine is intensely dark in color and has aromas of ripe figs, mint and chocolate. On the palate it offers concentrated, balanced fruit flavors and shows its natural sweetness while retaining its tannic character. Ideal to accompany desserts, particularly chocolate, and can also be enjoyed with cheese, or enjoyed on its own as a digestif.
The label pretty much sums it up. The color is red, with amber overtones. The flavor is very reminiscent of port, with notes of chocolate, and butterscotch. It pairs VERY well with chocolate (which cuts some of the alcohol). I suspect it would also go very well with ice cream.
Overall, I would call the Tannat experiment a success.