On the recommendation of some Uruguayan friends, last week I was lucky enough to visit Bodega Varela Zarranz. The Bodega is about 45 mins from the centre of Montevideo on Ruta 74 in the the wine producing area of Canelones. The winery has been going since 1888 but was acquired by the familia Varela Zarranz in the 1940s. The Bodega still uses large French tonnelles alongside stainless steel and concrete fermentation tanks to produce a majority of its wines. 225lt American barreques are used for the oak line and reserve wines.
Interestingly, they also produce a range of sparkling wines using the champagne (or am I supposed to say traditional - I can never remember!) method and riddle by hand twice a day
One of the additions to the cellar for the coming vintage was these two amphora. Like the trend to produce wines in concrete, the Bodega is also going to trial the use of the amphora to see how the wine produced is impacted.
We tasted 5 of their wines, which included the María Zarranz Extra Brut and Varela Zarranz Brut Nature, both of which made excellent aperitifs. This was followed by their dry Muscat, which had everything one would expect - I really liked this wine. For the reds, we had the Tannat/Cab Sau blend, which was rounded and fruity before ending with the Tannat Reserva, which was full of black fruit and sweet vanilla but with an alcohol content listed as 13.8%, which also gave it a freshness not always evident in these hot climates.
You can either enjoy these wines with a selection of cheese, hams and bread or during a three course lunch.
If you are passing through Montevideo, this is worth a detour.