Uruguayan Bodega Marichal and their pinot/chard blend

This is one of those stories where inspiration strikes and the result is, well, maybe not divine but definitely delicious. Winemaking like so much else has embraced technology but sometimes all you need is good old ingenuity to correct a problem. That´s what faced Juan Andrés Marichal when he decided to make a pinot noir solely from saignee (first press of the berries but macerated for 4 hours) from a portion of his pinot noir harvest and discovered after a short time that it was quickly losing its acidity in barrel. I suppose I should back track  a bit and explain how I got to know Juan Andrés´story. I was visiting  his family vineyard, Marichal, in the Canelones region of Uruguay, roughly 40 kilometers outside of Montevideo. The Marichal vines were first planted by Andres´great-grandfather, Isebelino Marichal in the early 20th century, when he arrived to Uruguay from the Canary Islands. It wasn´t until 1938 however, that the winery was built and ever since, it´s been a family-run winery. Juan Andrés likes to tell the story of how his grandparents met. He stares off into the distance from the doorstep of his winery, points to a house about 500 mtrs up the road and says, “that´s where my grandmother grew up and where we are standing now is where my grandfather grew up.” His grandfather literally married the girl next door, or at least the closest next door neighbour he had. What started with his great grandfather has continued through the years to Juan Andrés and his brother. Although neither live at the vineyard, they both live in nearby Montevideo and visit often. Juan Andrés told me that Uruguay has not always been a quality wine producer but in the 1980´s, the government took an interest in the winegrowing industry and provided incentives to pull up all the inferior rootstock and replant it with higher quality vines. The family took advantage of this program and replanted extensively.  Juan Andrés also took advantage of the opportunity to study in Mendoza, Argentina. Today, Juan Andrés and his brother...

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Sauvignon Gris from Uruguay, Casa Filgueira

One of the most intriguing things I found when I was in Uruguay was how willing the winemakers are to take chances with their wine. Quite a few times a winemaker would be explaining a new wine or discovery they had made and when I asked them how or why it  came about, they replied, it was an accident! An accident that happened to work out. Uruguay is a country of soft, rolling hills and a sky that seems to take up most of the vista. The majority of Uruguayan vineyards are located in the department of Canelones which is about 35 kms north of Montevideo. Roughly 80% of all the vines are there with the remainder up north in Salto or to the west near Colonia. The climate is maritime and they get a lot of cloud cover so even if it’s a hot day, it can still be cloudy. One of the winemakers told me it’s not uncommon for the 60% of the sky to be covered in clouds. It was hot and sunny day  while I was there so both me and the vines had to put up with the sun.  Another thing I noticed was the use of the lyre system to train the vines. There is a lot of humidity in Uruguay and the growers often have to contend with unwanted botyrtis or mildew. Sebastian Dellorio, Marketing Manager of Filgueira explained that they use the lyre system to prevent the vines from developing all those nasty ailments. Unlike Argentina, there isn’t much need for irrigation and most wineries only use irrigation if it’s been a very dry year. Otherwise, the vines are left to fend for themselves. One of those surprising accidents I drank was a sauvignon gris. The first winery I visited in Uruguay was also one of the most well regarded, Casa Filgueira. Filgueira was founded in the early 1900’s but it wasn’t until the early 90’s that the current generation, Dr. Jose Luiz Filgueira and his...

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Reinaldo DeLucca and his uniquely Uruguayan wines

“I hope you brought your camera because the cafe we’re going to for lunch is very interesting. ” I could say the same about Reinaldo DeLucca, the very interesting winemaker of his eponymous Uruguyan winery. When I mentioned I was going to Uruguay to try their wines, my trip was usually met with incredulous looks and much shaking of heads, especially in Argentina, but I had encountered much the same reaction in the UK before I left. Needless to say, I was full of trepidation when I boarded the ferry for the short 50 minute ride across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay from Buenos Aires. What would I find? Would there even BE wineries? Would the wine be drinkable even? Happily, I found not only wineries that had been founded as far back as the 19th century but a variety of wine styles and some rather avant garde winemaking but more on that later. First my lunch with Reinaldo. Reinaldo’s family has been making wine since the 30’s and he grew up in and around the vineyard. He possesses an impressive amount of degrees, Univ. of Uruguay, Masters from Penn State, Masters from Montpellier, PhD from France as well, he’s no country rube.  He’s also spent considerable time in wineries around the world, including a stint at the Viña Mina winery in Israel. This guy gets around! He counts France as one of his biggest influences in the vineyard. We were lunching at Los Porros, a tiny stucco building built in the 1800’s in a one horse town somewhere in Uruguay. Other then adding electrical wiring, I think the place has pretty much stayed the same. Gustavo, the proprietor, could be found wandering around, sitting and chatting with regulars ( and everyone but me seemed to be a regular, and a man) I felt like I was in the Godfather or something. The cafe was more like his personal living room then a restaurant. I loved the decor, a mishmash of vintage...

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