Tannat Emerges As An Underdog In Easily Drinkable Red Category
Could tannat be the new malbec? Uruguay’s trademark red grape offers a departure from cabernet and merlot. I recently tried two tannats from up-and-coming South American wine industries in Brazil and Uruguay. Brazil may sound like a new wine discovery, but you may have had a magnum of Marcus James at some point. Immigrants from Europe helped establish the wine industry in South America in the late 19th Century. Argentina and Chile surged in the late 20th century and threatened Uruguay’s wine industry, which was generally focused on local consumption. In the 1980s, Uruguay encouraged replanting and focused on imports. Since Argentina was doing well with malbec, Chile had selected carmenere, and Uruguay picked tannat. Tannat isn’t a completely obscure indigenous grape. Like better-known grapes, tannat traces its roots to Europe and a small region called Madiran in southwest France. Tannat likes warm weather. Some adventurous winemakers in Virginia have been taking a crack at tannat with very good results. California has some tannat as well. In France, meanwhile, tannat has been decreasing. Tannat has proven very versatile and has been used to make convincing rosés, Port- and nouveau-style wines. By itself, tannat can be pretty tannic and astringent. Its name comes from the word tannin, a substance in plants that gives the palate a sandy feeling, as when you drink black tea. Even when tannat is mentioned on the label, it often contains some other grape to counteract tannat’s rough spots. Winemakers try to tamp that tannin down to make wines drinkable in youth. The wines I tried tasted pretty good, though similar to somewhat generic and drinkable red wines. Lido Carraro Agnus 2014 Serra Caucha Tannat, the Brazilian entry, is very generic, tasting like many other red wines at this price, with vague fruit and a woodsy note. $12. ★★★. Artesana 2015 Canelones Tannat smells of fresh berries, black plums and spice and has a light body, with a finish that offers the grip of trademark tannins. $12. ★★★ 1/2 Tannat is worth watching and checking in on. I like to root for the underdog, but I doubt tannat will become the next malbec. For now, it will have to get behind carmenere. GRADE: Exceptional , Above average , Good, , Below average, , Poor, . DAVID FALCHEK, executive director of the American Wine Society, reviews wines each week.