Bodega Garzon? Where’s that?
If you ask someone to name a New World wine producer, they’ll probably mention California, Chile, Australia or Argentina. However, it’s unlikely that Uruguay will be in the mix. Yet, that may be about to change. A couple of weeks ago, Uruguay star Bodega Garzón came to town to present its new portfolio. (We also had a sneak preview of Garzón at Vancouver International Wine Festival.)
There are plenty of good reasons why Bodega Garzón should be on your radar. Here are 5 … or more.
1. Location, location, location
Uruguay’s wine regions are situated on latitudes similar to wine regions in The Cape, Hunter Valley, Margaret River and elsewhere. Most of Uruguay’s plantings are west of Montevideo, on the north shore of the River Plate. By contrast, Bodega Garzón is well to the east, beyond the resort of Punta del Este (East Point). Furthermore, the site is just 18 kms, inland from the Atlantic Ocean itself. Hence, the immense Garzón plantings enjoy any number of advantages. They range from mineral-rich, well drained, ancient soils to ocean breezes that dry after frequent rains. As a result, the careful planning as well as formidable expense, is paying off.
Uruguay is much more well established than most people realize. It’s the fourth largest South American producer after Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Not only that, there’s some history here. The industry traces its beginnings to over 250 years ago. But things started to look up when an emigré from Madiran (in present day southwest France) established Tannat in the 1870s.
3. Albariño, Viognier, Cab Franc … oh, and Tannat
Tannat, an aptly named variety can be as rustic and as tannic as it sounds. But in the right place—and in the right hands—it makes a smooth, well structured red. It also constitutes a substantial portion of Garzón’s plantings. However, their other varieties also proved very convincing. Also planted are: Albariño, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Petit Verdot and Marselan. By contrast, you can see it’s not only about Tannat.
4. Alberto Antonini
The entire, massive development (212 ha. / 524 acs.) is the brainchild of Bodega Garzón founder, Alejandro P. Bulgheroni. However, heading up the wine-making team is renowned ‘flying winemaker’ and viticulturist Alberto Antonini. Not surprisingly, he is excited about this formidable and complex project.
“As a producer, Uruguay is a very inspiring place,” says Antonini.
“But you have to have a lot of imagination,” he adds.
He points out that Uruguay’s main region is ‘not the best wine area.’ Deep, fertile soils don’t work well for the grapes and don’t properly ripen the tannins.”
Furthermore, he quips: “There, in the top soils, the vines are eating #BigMacs. If you want to eat better you go deeper.”
I’m keeping this short. But it’s not only about the vineyards. This month the stunning winery officially opened. An immense 19,050 sq.m., it’s fully LEED certified and all gravity fed.
Bodega Garzón has also engaged celebrated international chef Francis Mallmann as ambassador and culinary director.
5. Bodega Garzon … the wines…
In conclusion, I was struck by how much these wines convey a sense of place. Not only that but they reveal a pronounced freshness and elegance. The wines presented follow a revamp of the entire portfolio. At the moment there are few bottles in the market. By contrast, they didn’t impress me in the same way as these. Although, I will say that Hawksworth’s pairing of Albariño ’15 with Dungeness crab was spectacular.
Several of these below will be here in due course.
In addition, you might track down their second label, Colinas de Uruguay (private stores). No surprise, perhaps, it includes a pretty good example of a quaffable Tannat at a fair price.
Here are my notes, arranged by tier. Prices are approximate, hospitality (LDB retail) estimates. Wines that don’t wind up at BCLS will be somewhat higher, at LRS level (in brackets).
Bodega Garzon Estate Range
All estate sourced, overall, these wines represent excellent value.
Bodega Garzon Estate Viognier 2016
The most impressive white of the flight. Floral and stone fruit on top. Chalky notes, acid-driven with vibrant peach and tangerine on a rounded palate. Focused mineral undertones plus lingering citrus and tropical in a juicy, lingering finish. 93 pts. c $19.99 ($24.39)
Bodega Garzon Estate Pinot Gris 2016
A hint of salmon colour in the glass. All stainless steel fermented. Perfumed, floral, white flower orchard fruit aromas. A bright palate defined by keen acidity with green apple notes giving way to subtle citrus through the finish. 90 pts. c. $19.99 ($24.39)
Bodega Garzon Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Grassy top precedes a juicy, textured palate defined by crisp chalky and mineral notes. Distinctive freshness and purity of citrus fruit flavour. 90 pts. c. $19.99 ($24.39)
Bodega Garzon Estate Pinot Noir Rosé 2016
Strawberry and wild berry notes on top precede a slightly mineral tinged palate with juicy lip smacking acidity. Balanced by appealing savoury elements through a dry finish. 90 pts c. $19.99
Bodega Garzon Estate Cabernet Franc Tannat 2015
Blend of 80/20 Cab Franc Tannat sports some peppery notes up front. Medium bodied, quite juicy, plummy red and black fruit notes. The Tannat adds structure. An easy drinking unoaked red. 89 pts. $19.99 ($24.39)
Bodega Garzon Reserve Range
Hand harvested and sorted, whites are more rich and complex and reds all see various degrees of barrel aging.
Bodega Garzon Reserve Albariño 2016
Up front stone fruit and citrus precede a quite rich and rounded palate with extra heft from oak aging. Fresh acidity with mineral hints through definite oak showing in the finish. 89 pts. c $23.59 ($29.99)
Bodega Garzon Reserve Marselan 2015
Marselan is a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, prevalent in Languedoc. Aromas of vibrant mulberry and red berries. An intense, layered and quite viscous, mouth filling palate defined by red fruit with prevalent mineral notes. Wrapped in well managed oak, elegant tannins with a lengthy finish. Cement fermented. For me this was the most interesting of the reds. 92 pts. $23.59 ($29.99)
Bodega Garzon Reserve Cabernet Franc 2015
Bell pepper, mocha and spice notes with good mouthfeel. Well integrated tannins underpinned by layers of black fruit and smoky notes. Terroir driven minerality throughout to a juicy, spicy and lingering close. Aged in both large and small oak. Another standout. 92 pts. c $23.59 ($29.99)
Bodega Garzon Reserve Tannat 2015
Up front mulberry and some spicy hints. Juicy and quite approachable on the palate, although not particularly complex. Fermented in cement with 6-12 months on lees in large and small oak. Still youthful. 89 pts. $23.59 ($29.99)
In conclusion: these wines also add up to very good value for money.
Bodega Garzon Single Vineyard Range
Wines from select parcels that best express the varietal and truly reflect the terroir.
Bodega Garzon Single Vineyard Albariño 2016
Lifted tropical and stone-fruit before a fresh and fruit driven palate. Well balanced, restrained oak (mainly concrete fermented) with mineral hints and a lingering finish. 90 pts. c $41.49 ($52.99)
Bodega Garzon Petit Verdot 2015
Lifted, intense black berries with some smoky hints. A broad but layered and luxuriant palate of blackberry and anise. Firm but well integrated tannins, toasty notes and a lengthy end. Impressive. 91 pts. $41.49 ($52.99)
Bodega Garzon Single Vineyard Tannat 2015
Raspberry, cherry and spice notes up front. A full bodied palate of black cherry and spice, with juicy acidity, underpinned by firm tannins that last well through the dry finish. 90 pts. $41.49 ($52.99)
Bodega Garzon Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015
Forward cherry and red fruits before a palate of red berry and savoury earthy notes with a spicy streak and approachable tannins. 89 pts. $41.49 ($52.99)
To summarize: I was obviously impressed by the Albariño and Viognier, but also by the other whites. As for the reds, maybe I had expected the Tannat wines to show better than they did. To be fair, the Single Vineyard in particular is still pretty young. But, for me, it was eclipsed by the Marselan. Regardless, these are still early days and it will be interesting to watch these reds evolve. It’s hard to understate the impact that this project likely will have on Uruguay as an exporter.
A note about typography…
The correct written form of Bodega Garzón uses an accent, as indicated here. However, for reasons of SEO and other mysteries, I have had to exclude it in most mentions.