Visit to Juanico Vineyard

Trip Start Jan 06, 2008
Trip End Mar 31, 2008

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Juanico Vineyard

Having written about this wine maker previously, we were lucky enough to be able to visit their extensive vineyard some 38 kilometers from Montevideo in the village of Juanico. My jolly landlord, Adam, had set up the visit in his role as travel guide writer. It was a beautiful day and, despite the modern technology in evidence, the ancient origins of this vineyard were what impressed. The original building dates from 1830 and the cellar is even earlier, having been started in 1817. The cellar was built by Guarani indians, who had been trained by the Jesuits. The brick cellar, barrel vaulted in the traditional style and built of brick, is still as solid and crack free as the day it was built.

Our guide Jimena, a young woman fluent in English, was our pleasant and knowledgeable companion as we were shown around the extensive property (500 hectares, of which 200 are growing Eucalyptus trees). The vineyard produces close to 5 million litres a year and exports to 40 countries. They grow 40 different varieties of grape and presently use 14 of them to make wine. They are constantly testing new varieties and combinations.
They have no wine earlier than 1992 in the cellar. As our guide explained, the wine produced previously was very bad. They ripped out all the vines and replaced them with vines from Bordeaux, France. Bordeaux vines were chosen because of the geographical similarity of the two locations. Both are on a major estuary (Gironde and River Plate) and both are well watered.

The tour being soon over, we were shown to the dining room where the wives of the military attachés from the various embassies were just finishing their lunch. That must be a hard job, military attaché in Uruguay!

We had already tasted an excellent champagne (sorry, sparkling wine) and were now treated to 4 more wines, a heavily oaked chardonnay/viognier blend, cabernet sauvignon, tannat, and one of their premium wines, Preludio, which is a combination of 6 grape types, including cab, tannat, cab franc, and merlot. Unlike most vineyard visits we were offered more than just a taste, including a whole bottle of their 2002 Preludio, which was delicious.
The lunch was the traditional parilla, with a seemingly endless supply of carne, cerdo, and chorizo (beef, pork, and sausage) served on sizzling hot grills, followed by a very tasty chocolate cake, and coffee with port (sorry Licor de Tannat).

Best of all the whole visit was free, thanks to Adam´s status as a world renowned travel writer. We proceeded to spend our savings (and more) on some wine which we will bring back to Chicago to share.
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