Bodega Bouza and El Mercado de Puerta

Posted on October 23, 2008


Something you may not know is that Uruguayan wine is very high quality and is excellent. Most of the available varieties are familiar, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet. The local favorite is a grape called the Tannat, a rare find just about anywhere but Uruguay. In Uruguay it is the beloved local vine that flourishes in this climate and produces a dark red, strong wine that pairs well with steak, the other local delicacy. Tannat can be purchased standing on its own or part of a blend with pinot noir or merlot. I really enjoy dry, red wines, and tannat is a new favorite. A good bottle of wine can be purchased for $5 in the grocery store or about $9 in a restaurant. A decent sipper can be had for as low as $2.

Over the weekend we decided to visit Bodega Bouza, a winery just outside of Montevideo. A fast 20 minute taxi ride out of the city, past fields full of cows and tin shacks, dazzled by the bright sunlight and vivid blue sky, and we there pulling up the long driveway surrounded by grape vines with their new spring growth.

The winery was originally established in 1942 though it subsequently was turned into a cattle farms and then abandoned. The Bouza family purchased the farm in 2002 and renovated the buildings, planted vines, and started turning out excellent wine. The focus of the winery is on quality, with smaller production quantities than you might see at some of the more industrial vineyards here. The production building was beautiful, with thick stone walls and a deep cool wine cellar. Great pride clearly went into the restoration of the winery. A restaurant is on site housed in a former stone barn. There is an impressive menu featuring steak of course and a nice smoky wood smell in the air. An on site vegetable garden provides some of the ingredients.

As we finished our personal tour at noon, it was way too early for lunch. Usually lunch does not start until 2 or 3 pm here, especially on the weekend. We opted for the three wine tasting with a plate of cheese. We sat on the patio overlooking the vineyard and took advantage of the perfect, spring weather. Our tasting included an oaked Chardonnay, a Tannat-Termpranillo combination, and the special Monte Vide Eu which is not usually included in the tasting as it is a $70 wine (a small fortune here). The Monte Vide Eu is a Tannat-Merlot-Tempranillo blend that may have been the best wine I have ever tasted. I loved it.

The wine is named after one of the two stories on how Montevideo was named. This story is based on merging several Spanish words and abbreviations. Monte (mountain) VI (roman numeral 6) de (west) eu (east). In other words, six mountains from west to east, which actually is accurate. Any records that may have existed to confirm or deny this story have long since disappeared.

After Bouza, we decided to grab lunch at the Mercado de Puerta (market at the port). This is a huge building with a high ceiling that encloses many food stalls (at least 30). Each of the stalls has a full wood grill groaning under the weight of a huge variety of sausages, steaks, vegetables, and even a little fish. The air is smoky and smells delicious. It is the top tourist attraction in Montevideo and I did unfortunately run into a number of Americanos. I was getting used to having the city to myself. We had a great lunch there and then waddled the three miles back to the hotel.

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