Tannat is a big, bold red wine that has become the national grape of Uruguay, thought its origins are in the Basque region of France. Read on to find out more about this up-and-coming varietal.
History and Geography
Tannat originated in the Basque country on the France-Spain border. The most well-known Old World tannats come from the French village of Madrian, though it can be found throughout the foothills of the Pyrenees. It is also one of ten grapes allowed in Armagnac, a French brandy. Basque immigrants to Uruguay brought the grape with them to plant, and it is now Uruguay’s national grape. It can also be found in other South American countries like Argentina, Peru, and Brazil. In the 1990s, American winemakers began experimenting with the grape. Tannat has especially been planted in the Paso Robles and Santa Cruz AVAs in California. Lately, it has been planted in Arizona and Oregon.
In the South of France, Tannat is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, or Malbec. Some Argentinian producers have also blended it with Malbec, while other New World producers are blending it with the Cabernets. Uruguayan winemakers sometimes blend it with Merlot or even Pinot Noirs – tannat blends well with aromatic reds, as its tannins give them more structure.
How it drinks
Tannat is a heavy bodied red wine that is high in acid and tannins. It has flavors of raspberry, blackberry, plum, and cherry. Sometimes licorice, chocolate, and smoky notes are noticeable. Oak barrels often add spicy notes like cardamom. French Tannats tend to be bigger than Uruguayan ones; a Madrian will usually benefit from bottle aging.
Tannat pairs well with rich and fatty meats – it’s a great wine to accompany barbeque. Roasted meats like lamb also make great pairings – not surprising for a Basque country wine, as Basques are renowned shepherds. The acidity and strong flavors also make Tannat a great wine to pair with strong cheeses.3