Old World vs. New World: Tannat

Big old tannins. Big…new world growth? How does a grape typically talked of in Madiran , a tiny region in southwest France, get a stranglehold on a South American country? And could it be the next Malbec? Let’s dive the f#@k into Tannat, from its origins in France to its dominance in Uruguay. Say what, Uruguay? Yes. Uruguay. They are making damned delicious Tannat in Uruguay. But first! It hails (hails is always SO much more fun a word for one’s origins, no?) from southwest France. It is still mostly known to be in the wines of Madiran, where it must make up least 60% of the vineyard and 50% of the blend. Think big, tannic and bold—the more it makes of the blend, the more tannic. It can get seriously phenolic y’all. It can also show up in Cahors, but only as a small percentage of the blend. And it’s increasingly showing up in the new world (although we are getting old-ish to be referred to as new, no?). But the first mention of it and its French claim to fame is from Madiran. The name ‘Tannat’ could be from its dark color—in the Béarn dialect “tanat” means "color of tan" or "tanned". Or could it reference its spirited tannins. Tannin or not Tannat, that is the question. Tannat is known for its depth of color and strength of tannins. I’m talking brute force tannins that secure you like a seatbelt that, after a quick stop, holds you and won’t let you squirm for at least a couple more lights, or in my case, a couple more exits on the 101. What I am saying is it is intense but nurturing-ly so. Those tannins grip but as if to keep you from harm. And then there is the abundance of acid. Make Tannat ripe, make it earthy, however you make the grape into wine, Tannat’s acid allows whatever the profile is to sing. And age. It’s a wine for now and later, and in my month of Tannat-tendencies, I find myself wondering how it hasn’t become the next Cab/Syrah/big red of the moment. It has SO much to offer in terms of typicity that also shows terroir. So, Tannat in South America, what’s the story? A Basque enologist by the name of Harriague brought it there and planted it in the city of Salto in 1870. And indeed, it was called Harriague for some time. The grape’s thick skins can handle the humidity, and its hardy nature in general helped it become a stalwart. It shows up differently there, riper and less tannic, but charming in its own way. How do non-native wines become a country’s flagship? Looking at you Napa Cab and Sauvignon Blanc. How’d you do that? Not that Tannat has had that commercial a grip, but so far it is the one grape Uruguay is having a time with. If there is a Judgement of Paris competition for Tannat… So, in the Old v New wine tradition, I’ve tasted a handful of Tannats from yes, the Old and New World. I left out the ones that didn’t wow or show some personality and left in the winners. And ooh ooh scroll to the end if you must know my shower Tannat. FRANCE 2016 Chateau Peyros Madiran 60% Tannat 40% Cabernet Blinded, I’d think this is Bordeaux. Of course. It is ALMOST inky, pencil boxy, but distinguished as an English prof in plaid but zhooshed up in tobacco tassels and rippety-ripe pyrazines that aren’t quite green peppers (of any sort) and green wet-after-fresh-rain mud, and it’s just, well, as I said, rippety ripe pyrazines. Rich and ripe blackberry currants and blueberry and inky chewy tannins. 2016 Domaine Berthoumieu Cuvée Charles de Batz Madiran It’s another big boy! This one is 90% Tannat and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Both nose and palate are full of pungent dark fruit and brine. With cedar and fresh-tilled soil, plus finishes of greens and baking spice, this is quite complex. The tannins are actually fairly lithe, like a muscular person who happens to be flexible too, perhaps a perk of the micro-oxygenation the wines undergo. It still feels really fresh. It would be optimal with a meal. Fun fact: Charles de Batz is the original name of d’Arignan, the inspo for the main character in the tale of the Three Musketeers. I mainly think of the candy bar when I think “Three Musketeers”, and indeed, there is a hint of nougat and chocolate to this wine, I kid you not. Although it got its name more for the region the winery began. Not the flavor profile. UNITED STATES 2019 Angeleno Wine Company Alonso Family Vineyard Tannat This has big ol’ fig newton (lower caps) notes with beats of prunes, plums and a hint of violet. Don’t know if that exists, but I like to imagine it so. On the palate…dry. My gosh, fig newtons (still lower caps), both regular and the cherry flavor served on an autumn leaf you found on the ground after a rainshower—so not with the dried essence but like it has turned at least orange-ish. Strong cedar, slight tomato soup component. Flavors aside, it is luscious in texture, amplified in alcohol, and the tannins are so chill as to make me wonder if it is really Tannat. This is tasty, tasty, tasy AF wine. I’d serve it to wine newbies and wine snobs. I would tell neither camp anything about it and watch them all adore it. Go team Tannat. 2018 Y. Rousseau The Musketeer Napa Tannat Holy Napa Valley take on the grape, Catwoman. My first few sips I was not sure if I could get through all the oak, but as air played its role I started to pick up all sorts of fun nuances: blackberries, violets, cinnamon candy, and just lusciousness personified. A really fun expression of the grape. URUGUAY 2020 Artesana Tannat Reserva Super savory, dense, burly even? In the comforting way a little stubble can be. If that’s your leaning. If it isn’t that metaphor, can I liken it to…like just-barely-broken-in boots? And indeed, there is a hint of leather notes in here, despite the youth. Red fruits swim under herbal currents. Graphite and salinity buoy the fruit. It’s fresh but distinguished, and also…it just tastes like the epitome of “this is a red wine”. Honestly, if someone told me it was Madiran, not Uruguay, I’d believe them. 2020 Bodega Pablo Fallabrino Anarkia Tannat Dense, dark and brooding once you get an initial whiff of VA to blow off. More vibrant and energetic on the palate than looks would suggest. All the dark fruit you could want but lifted with herbal and cinnamon stick highlights. Tannins that latch then roll pleasantly across your mouth. A line of licorice strides through on the finish. Makes me proud of what a “no added sulphites” wine can be when properly handled. And then it finishes on a rich grape juice note (without the sweetness) I adore. 2018 Bodega Bouza B9 Parcela Unica Merlot Big wine energy all day! It is a rich, massive wine with style. One sniff puts a little hair on your chest. At 16% alcohol, it is….like I said, big wine energy. Raisins, prunes, and baking spices/fruitcakes galore all compete for your attention. On the palate, it is bracing without being startling. Stewed fruits from blackberries and plums to nectarines mingle with slight floral and wintergreen notes, along with a touch of licorice. Persistent fine-grained tannins draw out the finish, bringing blackberry cordial and Godiva liqueur vibes contrasted by herbal savory notes. Winner winner Tannat shower-wine dinner? Pablo Fallabrino for surprise and delight and making good on its no-sulphur offering—this is my shower Tannat. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Ellen in Lalaland: Escape to Santa Monica Add Sugar to Your Heart Big Barolo Energy What to Drink When You’re Not Drinking You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . 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Y Rousseau

The Musketeer Russian River Valley Tannat 2018

Give it some air it’ll give back — a year ago

Romain, Daniel and 4 others liked this

Bodega Bouza

B9 Parcela Unica Merlot 2018

Big wine energy. Stewed and ripe fruit. Bracing but not startling. — a year ago

Romain, Daniel and 4 others liked this

Pablo Fallabrino

Anarkia Tannat 2020

Deep and brooding then Omg THE ENERGY of this. Complex, dancing, Vibing. — a year ago

Romain, Daniel and 8 others liked this
Jody Scharf

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label. wow....
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@Jody Scharf It’s something, right?


Reserva Canelones Tannat 2020

Meow meow new world doing old world but richer riper vibes for still so enticing — a year ago

Romain, Daniel and 4 others liked this

Angeleno Wine Company

Alonso Family Vineyard Tannat 2019

So much ripe/dried fruit ala fig newtons. — a year ago

Romain, Daniel and 4 others liked this

Domaine Berthoumieu

Cuvée Charles de Batz Madiran Tannat 2016

Big bold and ripped with tannin grip and forest fun — a year ago

Romain, Daniel and 4 others liked this

Château Peyros

Madiran Cabernet Franc Tannat 2016

Blinded I might think a Bordeaux…nearby! — a year ago

Romain, Daniel and 5 others liked this