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"That Useful Wine Site"
The Tannat Grape

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About Tannat

(Synonyms: Bordeleza Belcha, Harriague, Madiran, Madiron, Maidiran, Moustrou, Moustroun, Tanat, Tannat Gris, Tursan Noir)

Background

Tannat grapes Map showing the Madiran wine region of France

Tannat is a red-wine grape originating in the Madiran region of France, but now important as grown in Uruguay, where it is that nation's signature wine grape; in its home region, it continues to be grown, but those wines are not major players on the international scene. Tannat is generally considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class red-wine grapes (those in boldface in the varietals list to the left of the page). Other regions are beginning to experiment with Tannat, both in South America and in the U.S., but Uruguay remains the chief source. In the U.S., Texas is emerging as a hotbed of Tannat activity, and Virginia is showing some stirrings, too; California, of course, also has entries.

The very name of the grape means "tannin", and the wines are typically very dark and, yes, tannic (owing mainly to the unusually thick skins and high seed count of Tannat grapes). When made in the Madiran, Tannat is commonly blended with other wines to soften its tannic astringency. More recently, vintners there have experimented with using more oak for softening, and more recently yet, with "micro-oxygenation", the use of oxygen aeration during the fermentation process. Another change in the Madiran has been the replacement of older Tannat vines with newer clones that are intended to be more appealing on the international scene, meaning that they produce softer wines of higher alcohol content. Meanwhile, the Uruguayan vines are still mostly the older, original clones brought over from France, so we have the ironic situation of the New World plantings being the older, more traditional clones while the Old World plantings are less distinctively varietal and more "internationalized" (read "less characterful").

The Uruguayan climate also seems especially favorable to the Tannat vine, which ripens better and, though of the older clones, produces wines more accessible than the monsters old Madiran bottlings tended to be. Nevertheless, "progress" (meaning saleability) is hard to resist, and many Uruguayan vintners are now planting the newer Madiran clones to better appeal to mass international tastes. It is thus helpful, with Uruguayan Tannats, to know whether the winemaker is using older or newer vines.

In general, Tannat wines typically taste of dark red fruit, raspberry usually being mentioned in descriptions, though blueberry is also cited, especially for the Uruguayan types.

Owing to its high tannin levels, Tannat is sometimes touted (even above red wines in general) for supposed health benefits, the longevity of Madiran residents occasionally being cited in "evidence". It is less clear what reliable medical sources believe.

Factoid: Tannat is associated with the Madiran region of France, but may actually have arisen in the Basque country just the other side of the Pyrenees Mountains from Madiran.


Some Descriptions of Tannat Wines

  • Wikipedia

    "A French Tannat is characterized by its firm, tannic structure with raspberry aromas and the ability to age well. They often have a deep dark color with high level of alcohol. . . The Tannat wines produced [in Uruguay] are characterized by more elegant and softer tannins and blackberry fruit notes. Vineyards in Uruguay have begun to distinguish between the "old vines" that are descendants from the original cuttings brought over from Europe and the new clones being produced today. The newer vines tend to produce more powerful wines with higher alcohol levels but less acidity and complex fruit characteristics. Some wineries utilize both vines to make blends."

  • Tablas Creek Winery

    "Tannat makes decidedly robust wines, with pronounced aromas of smoke and plum, significant tannins and a wonderfully spicy finish. . . [W]e’ve found the wines to be dense purple-red in color, with a nose of tobacco, smoke, and ripe berries. The rich palate has juicy flavors of plum and raspberry, with a long, generous finish. The tannins are impressive, but nicely balanced with the intense fruit and spice flavors of the wine. Unlike most Old World examples, you can enjoy our Tannats young, but we believe that they benefit from three to five years of bottle aging and should evolve gracefully for two decades."

  • Wine Searcher

    "Modern French Tannat is characterized by its firm tannin structure, deep color, high alcohol and its ability to age well. The aroma profile is gently tarry and redolent of stewed red berries ('warm raspberry jam' sums this up well). . . Back in Uruguay, a slightly different approach is taken to blending Tannat. Rather than blend it with varieties which are only slightly less 'rustic', the Uruguayan approach is often to introduce it to the likes of Pinot Noir and Merlot, whose soft, rounded fruit character are almost the antithesis of Tannat. This results in a spectrum of possible styles comparable to anything from Beaujolais to Port, depending on the winemaking technique. Some purists might suggest that it is Uruguay which has the 'true' Tannat, as the style there is more akin to olden day Madiran."

  • Snooth

    "Characteristics of the grape: firm in tannins, full-bodied, dark garnet red/purple, blackberries, dark plum, smoke, clove, nutmeg, allspice."

  • Anuva Wines

    "Tannat’s color is a deep purple-red. Lots of red fruit, plum, and spice are found in Tannat along with hints of tobacco and smoke. With a very firm tannic nature, especially in France, Tannat can age well. Wines typically age for about twenty months in oak before being bottled. In Argentina and Uruguay, Tannat with softer tannins, more dark plum, and blackberry are common, while French Tannat has more raspberry notes and firmer tannin."

  • Anivin de France

    "Tannat does not have any very specific aromas. Like many red wines, its flavors are primarily fruity when young. Blackberry, blackcurrant and red fruit aromas enrich more plant-like notes of white tobacco and, with ageing, hints of wild game and fur. Tannat is used to make colorful, highly tannic, lively wines, with a clearly acidic character. These dual qualities enable Tannat to make high quality red wines that are well structured and can be aged in the cellar for many years."

  • The Latin Kitchen

    "Pick up a glass of inky red Tannat . . . and you’ll typically find aromas of red fruit, dried plum, quince and touches of liquorice, backed up in the mouth by a brisk acidity and a notable tannic structure."

  • Richard Jennings, The Huffington Post

    "Tannat can be quite complex on the palate, showing black fruit flavors, like blackberry and black currant. Depending on the oak treatment, the wines can show also chocolate or espresso flavors. I find the best examples to be rich, with lots of structure and complexity. There is often a savory quality to these wines, too, especially with some bottle age."

  • The Gray Report

    "[Uruguayan Tannat] used to be tannic, but good winemakers have figured out how to deal with that. Now it consistently comes in with ripe tannins and fruit flavors and a satisfying body at alcohol levels about 13.5%. And the main thing is the freshness. Your palate won't get fatigued drinking a Uruguayan Tannat. It bothers me that some of the companies exporting Tannat to the US define the grape differently. Here's a wine where you can look at the alcohol level and see what they're up to. Anything over about 14.2% (that's the highest fresh one in my notes) and the Tannat-ness withered on the vine. Some of the slickest companies at exporting to the US make bulky Tannats. If that's what you want, you might as well buy Argentine Malbec. Argentina's economy sucks and is getting worse; Uruguay's economy is booming and its peso is strong. There's no reason to pay a premium for a Uruguay wine unless you're tasting that premium in the glass. When you do taste premium Uruguayan Tannat, it's a beautiful thing: intense without weight, elegant, long-lasting, memorable."

  • Vic Poulos, El Paso Times

    "Tannat wines are typically deep, dark, dry and rustic . . What tannat is most known for however, is its high levels of tannin -- and isn't that easy to remember -- tannin sounds a lot like tannat! If you don't know what tannin is, it's that dry, astringent feeling you get in the middle of your tongue and the front part of your mouth. Unsweetened black tea is a great example of nearly pure tannin dissolved in water. Even though tannat is now being grown across the globe, the tannat vines in North and South America are noticeably different from those in modern day French vineyards. This is because the oldest of the French vines are direct descendants of the pre-phylloxera cuttings that were taken across the Atlantic in the 1800s. This has caused Uruguayan tannat from South America to be slightly lower in tannins. The French clones are producing more powerful wines simply because they have been engineered to cater better to the modern consumer. Softer, higher alcohol wines are more in demand, so grapes like tannat, with its high natural acidity and high tannins, could be run out of the market by more well-known favorites like merlot and syrah. Wine purists may argue that Uruguay has the "true" tannat, as the style there is more akin to classic French varietal. As tannat is the national grape of Uruguay, its ties with France will likely fade away. This won't make tannat much different from some of the originally great wines from Bordeaux such as malbec and Carmenere, which were adopted by Argentina and Chile respectively."


Some Tannats to Try

(About this list.)

We include here a number of Uruguayan Tannats, plus an Argentine specimen, and a couple of French Madiran reds. We would have liked to include one or two more Madirans, but it was hard to find any generally recommended ones within our price limitation. As to American examples, almost all were above our $20 limit (many by quite a bit); the few that weren't were either not much recommended or very scarce—perhaps worth seeking, but not for listing on a list of specimens to try. It seems like the Stagnari winery is the class of the Uruguayan field (and not just for Tannat), but their wines are virtually unavailable in the U.S. (though supposeldy imported into Florida).

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
  • Bodegas Castillo Viejo CataMayor Reserva Tannat, $11 - $16.
    (Uruguay)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Opaque with purple edges and thin legs, nose of cassis, savory herbs, meaty and asphalt. Smooth velvety mouth, black fruit, meaty, chewy, savory, plumy, sweet oak, good acidity, very approachable pillowy texture, well balanced and drinkable

    [It] has an inky-fruity nose and intense but not heavy blackberry fruit on the palate. What else is new? It's a continuation of the attractive, and very good, tannat reds from Uruguay. Rating 3 1/2

    ♣ VinoSub30 Uruguay competition (2013), Gold medal

    [It] is damn tasty stuff, with darkish black cherry red color, beef aromas and black chernozyom soils and a slight floral lift. Beautiful, serious nose. This is a tensely drawn wine between power and a nicely acidic finish which provides delineation. Austere and brooding at the same time, with black fruits and an iron-nickel-copper finish. Old-World in style, I wish I had another one or two of these to set aside and try in 5-10 years. A-

    [It] is rich, plump and lively, with ripe black fruit, drying tannins and some chocolatey oak.


  • Bodegas Juan Carrau Tannat de Reserva, $12 - $14.
    (Uruguay)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Aroma: Red fruit and spice. Taste: Vanilla and caramel. My thoughts: I haven’t tried many wines from Uruguay but this one is fantastic. I’ve also tried a few bad Tannat wines so it was a pleasure to taste this one. Tannat is originally a southern France variety and makes a very tannic wine. Made in Uruguay, it is lighter in body but full of flavor.

    This dry, medium bodied Tannat has a dark purple hue and intense fruit flavors of plums and blackberries. The wine spends 18 months in French oak, contributing aromas of cedar and spice. The oak ageing also allows the tannins some times to mellow, giving nice smooth textures. . . Good fruit, soft tannins. A good value buy. I dig it.

    If you never tried Tannat, this Bodegas makes the best example of it. As a great alternative to highest quality Cabernet Sauvignons, this 5 years old Tannat is just slowly getting to its prime. I decanted my wine and let it breath for more than two hours. When I got to it, I was rewarded by rich and lovely taste of raspberries, ripe plums combined with classy cedar from oak. The big tannins are now smooth and round, very important aspect for balance and quality of this wine. Tannat de Reserva, with a price tag under $ 15.00, is a serious "steal". Dry; full body; aged in oak.

    Red ruby color with deep intensity. Classic cedar and violet in the nose. The quest for harmony and balance with oak. Plums are evident on the palate, roundness and smooth tannins contributes for an excellent wine. A 5 year aging is possible in good cellar conditions.

    Very dark ruby color; a little reduction, lightly smoky, roasted plum nose; tasty, fresh, tart red fruit, raspberry, dried berry, tar palate with a saline quality; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol; 25% new French and American oak for 14-18 mos; 6 mos in bottle). 90+ points

    Dark garnet color with cherry rims. Good body and fruit but rather hard and tannic as suspected. (Tannic came from the Tannat grape). Astringent finish. Virtually at peak and might hold for a short time. Instructive as a varietal if nothing else. 85/100.

    Attractive garnet with a fresh nose of ripe rich red fruit scented with vanilla. On the palate, more ripe fruit, with many layers of flavor. A chewy wine that can pair well with meat.

    Tannat from Bodegas Carrau is one of my favorite expressions of this grape. With roots in Catalonia, Spain dating back to 1752, the Carrau’s moved to Uruguay where they have been at the forefront of innovative winemaking since 1930. Bodegas Carrau was the first to export wines from Uruguay. They introduced the idea of using tannat for top reds in 1973 and, in 1997, they built a beautiful and innovative winery into the side of a hill to capitalize on low-input winemaking. Bodegas Carrau employs organic and sustainable methods, uses indigenous yeasts, and makes some of their wine without the addition of sulfur. Tannat is a heavyweight in the world of wine and shines brightest when paired with a worthy [food] partner.


  • Juanico Don Pascual Reserve Tannat, $11 - $16.
    (Uruguay)

    Some quotations and facts:

    A lovely violet color gives way to a pleasantly fragrant mix of heavy spices. The tannins are really well balanced with big jammy flavor for a really interesting and flavorful taste. It's a full bodied wine with a long and delicious finish. The Tannat is thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended. It is hearty enough to be paired with a meal, but interesting enough to stand on it's own. In fact, we rated this much higher than several wines we had sampled over the holiday season. Rating: 3.5 to 4 out of 5.

    [It] has a nose that is typical tannat. It reminds me of the smell of the ink I used to pour into the ink wells at school in the days when pens had nibs. There's a good helping of blackcurrant and blackberry, too, on the nose. On the palate there are the same flavours with just a dash of maltiness - a big mouthful of flavour just looking for a tender piece of Uruguayan meat or whatever's under your grill. And it's excellent value for money. Rating 4 [of 5]

    On pouring this wine is very dark, almost inky black with slight purple on the edges. There is a strong hit of fig on the nose and on to taste there is a pleasant blend of coffee with chocolate hints. The tannins are not too strong and the finish lingers. This is a very pleasant red and as my first introduction to the Tannat grape it leaves me wanting to sample more. With an ABV of 12.5% it is quite drinkable and . . . it more than deserves 3.5 Corks out of 5.

    Color- Marron Brown Light. Nose- Licorisch, ripe fruit, leather. Taste- Dry but rounded out by acidity very full mouth feel. Vanilla Caramel and tart fruits. Feels like you ate cheese. Recommended by 5 locals in Colonia Uruguay. The Tannat grape was originally grown in south western France. It does very well in Uruguay and is a full bodied red wine.

    A modern-style red, easier to approach. Deep purple colour with a pleasant nose of ripe raspberry and blackberry, black plum, earthy mushrooms and noticeable oak (vanilla, pastry notes). Ripe, fruity taste, velvety texture. Mellow and warm on the tongue, there is only a tad of bitterness in the finish. Ready to drink, it can easily be mistaken for an Argentinian Malbec or a dry red from the Douro Valley.

    Sweet cherries on the nose. Sweet palate with firm tannins. Quite acceptable.

    [Google-translated from French:] A Latin aromas of fresh fruit crushed American wine. A nice flesh. The tannins are well integrated and not rough. Chewy. Juicy. Ready to drink. Drinkable. A final with flavors of blackberries.

    While in Madiran in southwestern France, the grape produces wines of considerable, hard, drying tannins, in Uruguay, as in this example, the tannins are soft and velvety. This full-bodied wine shows a deep, intense purple red color, while the aromas deliver the suggestion of fresh ripe figs and brown spices on a background of fresh dark fruits. On the palate, bright dark cherry and dark plum flavors meld. 90 points.


  • Marichal Premium Tannat, $12 - $14.
    (Uruguay)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Saturated very dark maroon color; appealing, tart cherry, red berry, lightly herbal nose; tart cherry, dried berry, tart cranberry palate with good acidity; drinkable now; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol; 20% new oak). 88+ points.

    Medium dark red. The nose on this unoaked Tannat shows blackberry and red berry notes. It’s soft on the attack and fruit forward with firm ripe tannins, herbs and red fruit notes, a bit on the dry side. Reveals good freshness and purity but a little light on the mid-palate. Goes through cold maceration for 3-4 days prior to fermentation.

    Under went a cold maceration on 5-7°C for 3-4 days to soften the Tannat. Good ruby colour, cool mint nose great mix of blackberry and red berry fruit, elegant nose. Complex ripe, herbs, basil and cassis on the palate, delicate yet gorgeous, medium body, soft tannins indeed very gentle and pure fruit character, raspberry, cranberry with a mint touch with a herbal effect, smooth.

    This is a light, soupy smelling, gritty feeling wine with a modest body and hard acidity. Thus it cries out for simple, food-friendly pairings like pizza. Along the way you’ll encounter herbal red-fruit flavors, spice and juicy acids that cause roughness. 83 points

    [S]spicy black fruit, slight cedary note, firm tannins and persistent finish.

    Black fruit, but dressed in a bright sheen, with a penchant for collecting flowers. B.


  • Chateau Peyros Vieilles Vignes Madiran, $13 - $19.
    (France, Madiran: 80% Tannat, 20% Cabernet Franc; proportions may vary by vintage.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    On the southern edge of Madiran, Château Peyros has exceptional rocky vineyards. That gives this seriously structured wine a mineral nuance, framing the dark, very firm and tannic character. The fruit, bold and black, is still under the surface of a wine that needs at least 7–8 years to soften. 92 points.

    This full-bodied wine is a blend of 60% Tannat and 40% Cabernet Franc from 40-plus year-old vines. Deep purple in the glass, initial aromas of dark plum, blackberry and cedar unfold to reveal layers of peppermint and coffee. Fully ripe dark fruit and black berry flavors coat the palate along with notes of bitter chocolate and spice, sustained by a generous acidity and firm tannins into a long, structured finish. An earthy, slightly rustic red to be enjoyed with hearty fare; think beef, lamb and game.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (2009), 88

    ♣ Jancis Robinson (2009), 16/20

    Intense dark color with garnet-red glints. Powerful nose of vanilla and blackberry, with notes of minerality and spice. Well balanced with a strong, round attack. Beautiful tannic structure combining fruit and wood. Strong aromatic persistence.

    It is a delicious wine whose richness is matched by great texture and big, juicy fruits. It has plenty of tannins, but they meld easily into the rich ripe fruits, leaving a wine with a structure that offers considerable potential. The wine was rated 92 points by Wine Enthusiast and became a TopShelf - Cellar Selection.

    Dark ruby. Deep, excellent nose of dark cherry, black raspberry, cassis/tar, blueberry, tons of leather, and chalky earth, with a bit of aromatic roses, orange rind, cedar, and vanilla. Similar on the palate, with black cherry, austere blackberry, cassis/tar, some juicy blueberry, liquid leather, orange rind, roses. Cab Franc comes through with cedar and vegetal tobacco leaf. The fruit is low key but with remarkable density, and with a remarkable balance between leather and aromatics. Drying, puckery, chalky tannis. Attractive tartness balanced with density. May need more time to show its best. Can go another 10 years, perhaps. 80-20 Tannat-Cab Franc. ***

    Deeply colored, full-bodied and somewhat brooding with fairly gripping tannins. Earthy and savory with ample fruit flavor with layers of spice, clove and licorice and fairly lingering earthy finish.

    There are two Madiran red wines in particular that strike my fancy: [an unfindable one]; and 2003 Chateau Peyros Ville Vignes Madiran. Both are teeth-stainers, rustic, and filled with dark berry fruits (blackberries, blackcurrants, black cherries, etc.), plums and offer a touch of vanilla given up by the oak barrels they age in. The herbs and spices will tickle you pink as each sip reveals a new flavor. . . To my palate, the Peyros is destinct in its own right, offering up a unique, delicious and intriguing earthy/stoney minerality.

    [Google-translated from French:] The technical details are interesting here: the average age of vines 45 years, very reasonable yield of 43 hectoliters/hectare, long maceration of 20 days, raising 14 to 16 months with 40% new barrels and all that .... for wine $ 17.95 But it worth it? Well I would say that this wine somewhere made ​​me think a bit (probably because of Cabernet Franc) at Château Cheval Blanc, which costs about 40 times more expensive. I am not saying that is the equal of the great wine .... it only airs family and it is not 40 times worse. Not bad, is not it? Tasting Notes: Dark red garnet, deep and elegant nose of red and black fruits (blackberry and cassis) wrapped in spices and vanilla, the attack is very soft and melted, mouth following, round, powerful and balanced, tight tannins and for participating in a conventional structure which will make this wine a pleasant companion several quality dishes (tartare, turkey, lamb, beef, duck, etc..) long lingering finish that vibrates fun, great quality / price ratio, with the holidays approaching, it is wise to make provision!

    Quite tannic, this blend of 80% Tannat and 20% Cabernet Franc offers mineral-laced flavors alongside deep, almost brooding fruit-filled ones. Its firm structure makes decanting advisable, as exposure to air will only enhance its appeal.


  • Domaine Berthoumieu Cuvée Charles de Batz Madiran, $18 - $22.
    (France, Madiran: 90% Tannat, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; proportions may vary by vintage.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Charles de Batz is [Didier Barré's] top cuvée, a blend of 90% Tannat and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon made from very old vines hand harvested and aged for 12 months in new oak barrels. . . This is a great wine, dark concentrated and brooding with aromatic black fruit, smoke and spice on the nose. The palate is rich and dry with deep black fruit, round spice, sweet oak spice, espresso, mocha, surprisingly smooth tannins and a touch of bitter chocolate. I liked the firmness that it shows now, but it will soften and become more complex for quite a few years yet. A lovely classic food wine that will appeal to lovers of claret and Syrah - 91/100 points.

    [This] is Tannat blended with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. So deeply colored it will stain your teeth purple, this is an irresistible wine with all the force of character you'd expect from a top Madiran and this wild and beautiful region. It's also beautiful winemaking from Didier Barre. . . Rich and forceful.

    Tannat with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, this comes from 50-year-old vines and spends 12 months in new barriques. Rich, dark, black plum and olive, very sinewy and tight, with a blue/black richness and edge of woodsmoke, lovely concentration. The palate is dry and savoury, with a tight, meaty intensity and lovely tannin and acid balance that keeps it fresh. 91/100.

    A huge wine, both in its shiny black colour and its juicy, spicy and savoury taste. There's a deep plum, prune and currant fruit richness, a whack of power-packed firm dry tannins and a suggestion of tobacco. You know you've had a real grunter when you've swallowed a mouthful of this sumptuous drop.

    One of my favourite makers from my favourite appellation. Didier Barre, considered one of the best vignerons of the area treated us to a wonderful tasting in June 2010. This wine, a premium cuvee named after the real life D'Artagnan is a good example of the Tannat grape. The wine includes 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and is deep red with a spicy nose of black and red fruits. This delivers in the mouth with a deep, smooth texture with black fruit and briar flavours and a hint of pepper. May improve for a couple of years yet, the bonus being the price.

    It goes without saying that tannic wines are, by necessity, food wines, but it bears repeating. If anything, madiran is not a cocktail wine. Unless that cocktail was some type of steak spritzer, or a cassoulet and coke. This is the stuff to cut right through something nice and fat, something grilled, something rich with flavor. Something to think about on those philosophical sundays when the sun is about to set and the weekend is bracing you once again for what is to come.

    I figured I'd throw in a young, locally available Madiran as well just for everyone to get to try a young one. Per advice from the distributor, it was opened and decanted for over a couple of hours before service. Despite it being a bit tight and hard compared to the 14-15 year-old bottles, I found it surprisingly approachable and drinkable at this early stage (good focus and notable structure) . . . In this connection, Bernie told me a week later that, in his experience, the Charles de Batz wines mature faster than than those of Bouscassé and Montus [other Madiran vintners].

    Many of the improvements to the Madiran style are credited to Alain Brumont of Châteaux Bouscassé and Montus, but I’m also particularly fond of a domaine that learned from his methods, Domaine Berthoumieu, whose top wine, Cuvée Charles de Batz, is a great example of what modern Madiran can be.


  • Michel Torino Don David Reserve Tannat, $14 - $22.
    (Argentina)
         ($15.54 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    An intense ruby red colour in the glass, this “Don David” Tannat from Michel Torino is pronounced and densely fruity on the nose with aromas of ripe plums, dark cherries and high quality dark chocolate wafting from the glass. Pronounced alcoholic legs are suggestive of the 14% abv alcoholic content of this wine and also hint at the moderating effect of the altitude on the Michel Torino vineyards, without which this value would be far higher. Full-bodied and richly textured in the mouth, this 2010 "Don David" Tannat exhibits mouth-filling plum and dark cherry flavours, with notes of dark chocolate, vanilla and clove spices emerging from the mid-palate. Long, intensely flavoured and with tannins that offer plenty of support but are surprisingly rounded and approachable, this "Don David" Tannat is a perfect example of the reason why Tannat is becoming more sought after outside of Argentina.

    There’s more good to this rough and rugged varietal than there is bad. It’s hugely fruity, perfectly ripe, colorful and full of cola, coffee, black fruit, rubber and length. It’ll definitely last in a cellar, and that can only help soften the punishing tannins and mouthfeel that dominate the current state. 87 points

    ♣ Wine Advocate (August 31, 2009), 89 points

    Don David Reserve Tannat 2008 of Michel Torino Estate has been distinguished as the BEST RED WINE IN THE WORLD in the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2010 among 6964 samples tasted from 49 different countries. Quite an amazing feat!

    [This] is a great wine and a great deal. It is very full on the palate with generous fruit fighting for its place against massive tannins that pack a punch but are yielding enough to allow other charms to show through. The fruit is juicy blackberry and currant. There is a clove like earthiness to the wine and dusty coco powder like tannins. It cries out for big flavored food and will be tamed by generous servings of roast meats. Michel Torino Estate, "Don David" Tannat is a steal at around $12 to $15 a bottle. Get a few and hide one away for the future.

    It is an inky opaque purple color with brooding nose of cedar, underbrush and assorted black fruits. On the palate, the wines tannins are well-modulated to complement the wines layered, ripe blackberry flavors.

    Big, fluid, ripe and concentrated with dark fruit, a nice figgy character and fine tannins. Very refreshing. Good value for money. 4/5

    Controlled on the nose by blackberry, mint, menthol and fire. Like the 2008, this is not the easiest road to run, but it is a blast of penetrating blackberry, boysenberry, heat, spice and dark minty length. Tasty but tough, with the roughness and quality meeting in the middle. Drink in a couple of years.

    I decanted the wine on the advice of [the retailer], I think for about 2 hours. It was quite good - the most noticeable flavour signature was chocolate, and it had good depth of flavour and nice long finish. Although it was quite powerful and New World in style, it was also quite elegant. Most enjoyable.

    What a wine! An underappreciated grape varietal slowly becoming more well known. A great Cabernet Sauvignon substitute. Big dark fruits, chewy tannins and a lingering finish that makes this wine seem like something twice the price.


  • Giménez Méndez Las Brujas Tannat, $14 - $17.
    (Uruguay)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Ripe and lush with smooth texture and juicy notes of raspberry, plum and wild cherry; silky, generous and clean with pure fruit and fine balance; long and charming. 90 points.

    Their best Tannat comes from their 60-acre Las Brujas vineyard, originally planted in the 1980s. . . Better than [their "Identity" line Tannat] is the 2011 Las Brujas Tannat, which is rich, savory and balanced. . . Very dark ruby color; oak, mocha, ripe berry nose; tart berry, tart cherry palate with firm tannins and good acidity; medium finish (13% alcohol). 87+ points

    ♣ Wine Advocate (February 2012), 88 points

    The purple colored 2010 Las Brujas Tannat (100%) saw 40% of the wine aged for 6 months in French and American oak. Notions of road tar, damp earth, violets, blackberry and black plum inform the nose of a dense, concentrated, round, savory wine. This excellent value has the balance and structure to drink well for 3-4 years.

    I was not a huge fan of these blends, particularly the Tannat-Merlot blends. It seemed that the Merlot added some fruitiness but took away from the finish, making the tannins even softer which had the result of a a wine falling off the palette. However there were really no complaints of the single varietal Tannats. They were most likely red cherry flavor, with a chewy structure, and nice soft tannings - dripping down the throat. Since alcohol levels are generally low, 12-14%, there was never a hot finish. . . I was very fond of the Gimenez Mendez Las Brujas Tannat.

    [Google-translated from Portugese:] Excellent balance between acidity, fruit, tannins and astringency. Dark red color with violet reflections. A stylish wine, soft and ripe tannins. On the palate the flavors are evident marmalade and red plums. A wine with great persistence in the mouth that can be taken now or saved for another two years, when it will reach its maximum potential

    [This] drinks like a cabernet sauvignon: firm and focused, with currant and other dark fruit flavors and a semi-elegant finish.

    The nose is of raspberry and grape. It has a tannic taste that is reminiscent of port with fruit and blackberry notes. 89 points.


  • Pizzorno Reserva Tannat, $16 - $18.
    (Uruguay)

    Some quotations and facts:

    In the glass this wine is dark crimson. The aromas you get from Tannat are raspberry compote and elder flower, marry with hints of plum and rosemary. The palate is rich in its flavors of plum, chocolate and new tobacco, a bit tannic but with good acidity. If allowed to breath a bit this wine can shine. The finish is long with a bit of mineral taste.

    Very dark purple red violet color; lightly smoky, roasted berry, licorice nose; tasty, tart black fruit, anise, baked berry, black raspberry palate; medium finish (13% alcohol; 12 mos in American oak and 1 year in bottle). 88+ points

    [B]lackberry, black plum, cinnamon, a touch of coconut from the American oak, licorice on the finish – somewhat "international" in style, but the Tannat stands our sufficiently to make it a distinctive wine, really excellent – this wine won a gold medal while still a barrel sample in the major South American wine awards, plus, was selected for inclusion in the 2006 edition of the Vinalies Internationales 1000 recommended wines of the world.

    Made from the oldest vines in the vineyard, this wine is dark purple in color. In the nose, it’s a little austere at first but after, black plums (the kind with pink flesh) and the scent of wild berries (blackberries, raspberries) emerge. You "bite" into this wine. It’s fleshy, dense, and structured. Don’t let the tannins scare you (that’s where the health part is). Just decant this baby for a couple hours, light the grill and through on some lamb chops.

    Extremely rich and well balanced with concentrated fruit elegance and finesse. Notes of vanilla and lots of layers of texture. Lively acidity adds lift.

    [Google-translated from Portugese:] 12 months in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. Plots tuned separately in barrels and then cut. In my opinion one of the best Tannat travel. Visually closed, black, nose chocolate and coffee jump with force. In the mouth amazing, great volume and body, very tasty tannins, despite being very round not lost that strength and hardiness as expected from Tannat. Worth knowing this.

    This had a Tannat nose with some vanilla aromas. It was still youthful in the mouth with power, some hints of maturity, and red tangy acidity. It still has structure. A nice wine.

    [D]ark, ripe and lively, with red fruit, spice and drying tannins on the finish


  • Bouza Tannat Reserva, $18 - $20.
    (Uruguay)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Possibly Tannat vines just produce higher quality fruit sooner than other varietals, it’s something to explore one day – earthy, blackberry, cinnamon, and a touch of oak and cocoa on the finish, this is the first of the reds that I’d ramp up into the quite good category.

    I loved the enticing aroma of creamy raspberries, and the rich, up-front fruit on the palate. It grew into some black pepper spice before significant tannins came to the fore, but they weren’t overwhelming. I wrote that this was "as elegant a Tannat as I’ve ever found."

    ♣ Wine Advocate (February 2012), 90 points

    The 2010 Tannat Reserva is more generously fruited with good density, layered flavors, and ample spicy black fruits. It has enough structure to evolve for 1-2 years and will be at its best from 2013 to 2017.

    [Google-translated from Spanish] In a garnet color glass high concentration shown, practically black with violet reflections. The nose displays an attractive array of ripe black fruit aromas accompanied by elegant notes of eucalyptus and mint. It is an interesting and complex wine, fruit and minerals and herbs that give great freshness notes. Over time, the notes of leather, oak and caramel begins to emerge. If the nose is very attractive, step by palate is a charm: balanced, promotes fruit aromas with balanced acidity and polished tannins and a long aftertaste reminds roasted coffee and chocolate. Great copy of a Tannat varietal wine.

    3* - black as night color, earthy, meaty, salty nose, reminds me of salumi, palate is black plum and meaty with big tannins.

    [C]losed nose, new oak; lots of choco oak on the palate, shame as it shows nice concentration and ripeness, big yet well textured tannins; time will tell whether the oak merges together. 87 points

    With buckets of black brambly fruit, liquorice and cocoa, it is tannic yet fresh, and ideal for bold meat dishes.


  • Pisano RPF (Reserva Personal de la Familia), $19.
    (Uruguay)

    Some quotations and facts:

    [T]his wine is much more classic in terms of Tannat’s flavors – strong but soft tannins, black plums, black currants, and black pepper. It’s a wine that still needs a little time, but then 2002 was an exceptionally good vintage and the wine has a lot of power. Recommended.

    [T]the producer that, for me, is making the very best wines in Uruguay at this point [is] Pisano. . . That includes the delicious Tannat RPF . . . I rated 93+ points.

    Opaque with rusty edges, nose of dried black fruit, sweet oak, briar, licorice, black pepper, savory herbs. Strong, grippy tannins, dry with a chalky texture, cassis, mid-palate rush of acidity. Long dry dusty finish. Good with chef salad. Next day – still tasty.

    [C]omplex dark fruit flavors, good acid and big grippy tannins. Another great wine to accompany a steak.

    This is the very first Tannat I’m drinking. . . The 2007 Pisano is an inky, black purple colored wine. The nose is dominated by dark berries, vanilla and toast from the oak and as the wine receives more air the alcohol starts to dominate everything. In the mouth the wine is very dry, feel like Sahara dessert found a new home in your mouth, medium body with a lactic flavor, black currant and more black and blue berries. The wine finishes rather quickly with a certain heat in a short to medium after taste. Overall this wine is tight, tannic and rough. This is a fruit bomb, unfortunately quite unbalanced as the nose creates false expectations. To me this looks like a fake wine – fake in the sense that the short after taste is disappointing.

    On the Nose: overall surprisingly muted. Black cherry and wood revealed themselves to determined sniffing. The Gulp: It took a good half hour for this bottle to really open up with sharp black cherry, oak and some rosemary. And you cannot disregard Tannins when discussing Tannat. If you drank more than two or three glasses of the ’07 Pisano RPF Tannat in a short time you may feel are getting a touch heavier. A month or two short of celebrating it’s sixth birthday from harvest, I have every reason to believe this wine could benefit from another four years of quality cellaring.

    Perfumed nose of violets, black fruits and wood spice aromas. Rich, ripe fruits on the palate, dense with jammy blackberry and blackcurrant flavour, and supported by firm, robust tannins. Lingers with smoky, meaty notes. 3½* (Very Good)

    Mineral, fresh & elegant; yes, it's really Tannat we're talking about. A-

    There were 20 of us, and I think it’s safe to say the favorite bottles were the Pisano RPF, the Pisano Reserve, the Chateau O’Brien (source of the first Tannat I’d ever tasted) and all three of the French entries.


For a Splurge

Bouza has several top-rank "Parcela Unica" (single-vineyard) Tannats, of which a highly respected example is their B6, available for $38 to $45 (others include A6, A8, B9, and B15). Marichal's "Grand Reserve Tannat A", circa $40, is another splurge candidate, but hard to find.



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