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Wine Enthusiast 2024

There’s No Better Time to Try Tannat

By Rachel Tepper Paley

Wine Enthusiast - April 2024


With its high levels of tannin, Tannat—a red grape with origins in southwestern France—was once primarily thought of a blending grape, often joining Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Fer in red blends from the Madiran appellation. In recent years, however, the grape has stepped into the single-varietal spotlight as producers learn to better harness its astringency. It has also taken root in regions far from its ancestral home, from Paso Robles and Oregon to Texas and, perhaps most famously, Uruguay, where it is now considered the national grape. 

Tannat stands out against the heavier wine styles that have dominated in recent years, says Wine Enthusiast Writer-at-Large and California reviewer Matt Kettmann. “There’s just enough of them that a curious wine fan can become a relative expert quickly,” he says. “But then there is a steadily, if slowly, growing slate of new bottlings that will keep that learning experience engaging for years to come.” 

Uruguay certainly has more than earned its reputation as one of the largest Tannat producers in the world. But volume alone is not what Wine Enthusiast Writer-at-Large Jesica Vargas, who reviews wines from Argentina, Chile, Central America and South Africa, finds most notable. Rather, it’s that Tannat winemaking in Uruguay has achieved a remarkable quality in only a few decades and continues to evolve.

“During the mid-2000s, careful attention to vineyard management and winemaking techniques in the cellar, such as a more balanced use of oak, has resulted in smoother and fresher Tannats,” Vargas explains. “Oaked and unoaked, lean and structured reds, lively rosés and even sparkling wines are being made by a new generation of winemakers who are giving the grape variety a fresh perspective.” 

Also exciting? Uruguayan Tannat likely has not yet reached its final form. Historically, the regions of Canelones and Montevideo, near the Rio de la Plata, had the highest number of acres under vine. Now, producers are eyeing emerging regions near the Atlantic Ocean, such as Maldonado. Tannat’s boom bodes well for other varietals, too. 

“I find it interesting how the success of Tannat has encouraged winemakers to experiment with other grape varieties—Albariño shows potential,” Vargas says. 

Altogether, it’s a great time to drink Tannat. Here are some top bottle picks from our Tasting Department. (…)



Château Viella 2021 Symbiose Tannat (Madiran)

90 points. — Roger Voss

Rich and bottled without added sulfur, the wine is dense. Black fruits, acidity and a core of firm, young tannins promise aging. Drink this ripe, full-bodied wine from 2026. 

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