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As a rich and velvety blend of 60% Tannat and 40% Merlot, the 2011 Artesana Tannat-Merlot offers up a heady bouquet of ripe black fruits and spice notes tempered by subtle earth tones. And on the palate, Artesana’s artful blend explodes with lush black and red fruit flavors infused with allspice, dark chocolate, aromatic bark and ripe tannins, all of which come nicely wrapped in toasty oak. Moreover, all of this wine’s comely flavors converge in the mouth to lend weight and polish to the wine’s broad mid-palate and allow savory notes to linger long on the finish. Interestingly, each of the wine’s varietal components was fermented separately in small stainless steel temperature-controlled tanks and then aged in 70% French and 30% American oak for 12 months, before being custom blended. Yet, what pours out of a bottle of Artesana Tannat-Merlot resembles one seamless garment that can be drunk now or cellared for up to 10 years. Serve cool at 60-65°F.
Uruguay, like neighboring Argentina and Chile, thrives on pairing its rich red wines with some of the planet’s finest beef. With that in mind, we can think of no better accompaniment to Artesana’s delightful 2011 Tannat-Merlot than beef, preferably in the form of a juicy steak or prime rib. Short ribs and sliders offer wonderful accompaniments, too. Yet, strong cheeses, charcuterie, red sauce pasta dishes, and roasted and grilled lamb pair beautifully with this wine as well. Grilled Italian sausages and a host of vegetarian specialties, including a vegetarian paella or cassoulet, provide other tasty accompaniments to this special wine. And many of us would be hard pressed to find a finer accompaniment to almost any eggplant and tomato based dish than the 2011 Artesana Tannat-Merlot. Enjoy!
Uruguay, a South American oasis of peace and stability, has been making good wine for centuries, most of which heretofore has been consumed by the small but prosperous local population. Yet, in recent years the rich, full-bodied wines of Uruguay have begun to flow north and find favor in “El Norte.” In the last five years the trickle has become a steady flow, as new and longtime producers in Uruguay continue to raise the quality bar and embark upon the search for additional markets for their country’s distinctive wines. Yet, unlike Uruguay’s South American neighbors, Argentina and Chile, Uruguay is a country of small-scale, family-owned wineries with a European winemaking tradition. And as an added note, Uruguay is considered to have one of the purest vineyard environments in the world, ranking 3rd after Norway and Finland in the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) in 2005.
Artesana appears as one of Uruguay’s new and most exciting small estate wineries. It is located in Uruguay’s acclaimed Canelones winegrowing region, where the temperate coastal Atlantic climate produces growing conditions that are often compared to that of Bordeaux. Artesana is owned by an engaging American woman, Leslie Fellows, and her uncle. Award-winning Uruguayan winemakers, Analía Lazaneo and Valentina Gatti, handcraft iconic wines that express the unique terroir of the estate vineyard. Wines are made in small lots with minimal intervention, allowing the character of the fruit to be expressed. As the estate’s name implies, Artesana is truly an artisanal affair, as all of Artesana’s handcrafted wines are made with 100% estate-grown grapes and showcase Uruguay’s distinctive terroir and its signature grape variety Tannat.
Tannat hails originally from southwestern France where it has long figured in the legendary “Black Wine” of France known as Cahors. The word tannin derives its name from the Tannat grape, which should tell us something about Tannat: It produces full-bodied, age worthy wines for certain. Alone or when blended with Merlot from wineries such as Artesana, Tannat delivers a lot of bang for the buck. In centuries past it traveled to Uruguay where the deeply colored Tannat varietal produces rich, full-bodied wines with dark fruit flavors and exotic spicy tones. As it does throughout Uruguay, Tannat rests at the heart of Artesana’s winemaking program along with the conviction that great wine starts in the vineyard.
In addition to growing glorious Tannat, Artesana produces excellent Merlot and Zinfandel from the estate’s 20 acre vineyard. Artesana currently releases two exceptional Tannat based wines, a 100% Tannat and a Tannat Merlot (this month’s feature). In this month’s feature, Merlot plays a supporting role in order to soften Tannat’s extroverted tannins and add a certain cachet to the wine. As for Zinfandel, Artesana is the first to grow and produce it in Uruguay. Moreover, the estate’s vineyard is completely hand-farmed using sustainable Integrated Pest Management (IPM), low-input, dry farming to maintain the long-term health of the land. Vines are meticulously tended to produce low yield, high quality fruit and are field-selected and hand harvested.
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