Argentina has its Malbec; Chile has its Carmenere and now Uruguay, not to be out-classed by its more famous wine-producing neighbours, is taking the world of viticulture by storm, with its distinctive Tannat wines.
Uruguay on the Atlantic coast, the fourth most important wine-producing country in South America, grows a variety of grapes, but none more celebrated than Tannat, which is fuelling this country's rise to prominence in the wine world.
While Argentina’s Malbec has been described as a “lady’s wine” easy to drink, Tannat is more on the hardy line of French wines and is excellent with red meats, particularly the traditional barbecues of this beef cattle rich country.
Over the years Tannat has come to be seen as the quintessential Uruguayan grape and wine, representing about 40% of the country's entire wine production.
Now bold and full-bodied Tannat wines are putting upstart Uruguay on the map, and winning prizes against competition fronted by more established regional rivals.
“Tannat is opening doors for us” winegrower Virginia Stagnari proudly told the foreign press visiting one of her several family farms. Her Italian immigrant family founded the Antigua Bodega Stagnari, some 20 kilometres north of Montevideo, one of the several privileged areas for viticulture in Uruguay.
Although Uruguay's wines are just beginning to gain a global foothold, it has a long history of viticulture, dating back some 250 years when French and Spanish immigrants brought the vine to the New World.
The hardy Tannat grape, originally from South-eastern France, was introduced to Uruguay in 1870 by the Basque Frenchman Pascual Harriague, an immigrant who was looking for a varietal that would thrive in Uruguay's soil and climate.
Since the 1990s, Uruguay has been exporting high-quality wine throughout Latin America, the United States and even in the countries of the Gulf.
Uruguay only has 3.4 million inhabitants, dwarfed by its larger neighbours Brazil and Argentina, but now enjoys a growing reputation as a producer of superlative wines for a reasonable price.
Some 8,200 hectares of vineyards have been cultivated by some 1,800 wine producers.
Stagnari said her family's vineyard was established in 1929 by her maternal grandfather, an immigrant from Italy, and today produces 140,000 litres of various types of wine, exporting every fifth bottle out of the country to destinations like Brazil, Mexico, Belgium and Sweden.
Another highly regarded Uruguayan brand name, Bouza, although barely a decade old, produces what are generally deemed to be some of this country's most exquisite wines including not only Tannats but varietals as Albariño, Chardonnay and Merlot.
Albariño is a white wine originally from humid and wind swept Galicia, northwest Spain, from where many Uruguayan families migrated even until the middle of the twentieth century.