Uruguay wine exports have surged over 500% since 2011, but many producers believe a new focus is needed to raise awareness and win more converts abroad.
Uruguay Wines Look For Quality To Open The World’s Door is the headline of Mayte de Leon’s well-researched analysis in El Observador which documents how many Uruguay bodegas are producing more premium wines. In that sense, these wineries are borrowing a page from the country’s beef producers who conquered foreign markets with a reputation for high quality and 100% traceability.
Uruguay wine exports rose 544% from 2011 to 2013, but much of that increase was thanks to a surge in bulk wine sales to Russia. In the span of those two years, Russia went from importing less than 4% of Uruguay wine exports to over 40%. Today Russia imports over 20 million liters of Uruguay wine annually.
Despite the surge in bulk wine sales, the model for the Uruguay wine industry’s long-term success lies across the River Plate. Just as Argentine producers did with Malbec, Uruguay wineries are beginning to adopt a laser-like focus on premium wines and blends featuring the country’s signature grape, Tannat.
The Director of the country’s Wine Growers Institute, Jose Lez, describes Tannat as the “battle horse” which opens the door to new markets and allows the entry of other Uruguay varietals: “It’s our large flag. It opens the door, so that later we can present great Merlots, great Cabernet Sauvignons, great Sauvignon Blancs,” says Lez.
Uruguay exported 1.5 million bottles of fine wine to 30 countries in 2013. One of the 32 wineries that exported premium wine was Bodegas Carrau which now exports 45 % of its production. For Carrau, Brazil is the number one buyer followed by the United States.
Establecimiento Juanico is another good example of a Uruguay winery that only exports fine wines. Last year the company exported 250,000 bottles to 22 countries. For Juanico wines, Brazil was the number one destination followed the United Kingdom. (Full Story in Spanish)
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