The Big Bold Taste of Tannat

Red wine doesn’t get any bigger than Tannat.  It’s big in flavor, big in tannins and big in alcohol.

Tannat is grown in southwest France though today you’ll often find it from Uruguay, where it’s considered the national grape.  Around the world Tannat is used mainly as a blending grape, rarely as a single varietal wine.

Tannat produces deep inky purple, almost black wines that are bold in taste and structure, with dark berry and earth flavors and firm tannins.  It’s not uncommon to see a Tannat with 15% alcohol.  Tannat wines are great for aging, as time in the bottle will soften the tannins.  If you’re opening up a young bottle, I’d highly recommend decanting it.

So in summary, if Syrah and Zinfandel aren’t for you, you’re probably not going to like Tannat.

At this year’s Miami International Wine Fair there was just one representative of Tannat from Uruguay: H. Stagnari.  This winery is located in the Salto province in northwest Uruguay, on the banks of the Uruguay River.

Tannat PremierH. Stagnari excels at refining Tannat, making it elegant and easier to drink.

I started my tasting of H. Stagnari’s Tannat with the 2008 Tannat Premier ($12).  It’s deep purple in color with dark berry aromas.  On the palate are flavors of blackberries, black cherries and tobacco, with chewy tannins giving the wine a solid structure.  This wine is 14% alcohol.

If you’ve never tried Tannat, the Tannat Premier is a wine that will make you want to explore this varietal more.

Next I tasted the 2008 Tannat Viejo ($28).  This wine is aged for 12 months in 80% new French oak barrels and is 15% alcohol.  Aromas of dark berries introduce flavors of smoky raspberry and black cherry, with hints of chocolate and clove.  The spicy finish lingers in your mouth, with solid tannins giving the wine a structural focus.

DaymanMy final Tannat was the 2007 Dayman Castel La Puebla ($50).  This wine spends more than 12 months in 80% new French oak barrels.  Like the Tannat Viejo, this wine is made in limited production and must measure up to certain standards set by Héctor Stagnari Sr. in order for it to be released.

The Dayman has dense aromas of ripe black fruit.  Flavors of blackberries and black plum are enhanced by dark chocolate and earth.  It’s a velvety and sophisticated wine, thanks to a fruity acidity balancing out the ample tannins and alcohol (15%).  This wine will continue to evolve in the bottle and can be laid down for some time.

Though it wasn’t available to taste at the wine fair, H. Stagnari makes a Tannat Rosé.  It’s raspberry red in color, almost more like a light red wine than a rosé.  The wine has red fruit aromas and flavors, with some floral notes.

A big, bold wine demands a big, bold meal to accompany it.  Serve Tannat with steak or other grilled red meats.

Though Tannat can have the sophistication and aging potential of an expensive Bordeaux, don’t think you need to spend a lot to enjoy this unique varietal.  Most Tannats from Uruguay range between $15 and $25.  See what’s on the shelf at your local wine shop!