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Barrel-fermented Albarino to become Uruguay’s priciest white wine

Pioneer in top-end wine production from Uruguay, Bodega Garzón is to make a flagship white wine from Albariño fermented in a cigar-shaped oak barrel, potentially from this year’s vintage.

A 600-litre cigar-shaped vessel from the Vicard cooperage is being used to ferment and age Albariño from Bodega Garzón

Following a visit to the winery earlier this year, db spotted an unusual elongated barrel, which winemaker Germán Bruzzone said was a 600-litre cigar-shaped vessel from the Vicard cooperage.

When asked what he intended to do with the container, he told db that he was going to make a top-end white wine to sit alongside his reds, such as those made with Uruguay’s emblematic grape, Tannat.

Such a wine would be created using Albariño, which Bodega Garzón planted in 2010 on the advice of consultant Alberto Antonini, because the estate’s vineyards are located on granitic soils near the Altantic, two aspects shared with northwest Spain and Portugal – the native home for this white grape.

Garzón winemaker Germán Bruzzone

Bruzzone said he had decided to try the barrel to create a more textural style of Albariño. “My idea is to get more contact with the lees,” he said, suggesting that the elongated shape of the vessel will enhance the interaction between the wine and the solids suspended in it.

Such an influence is often also cited as a reason for using egg-shaped or ovoid fermentation and ageing vessels.

Although Bruzzone is putting wine from this year’s vintage in the barrel, he said that because the oak is new, he might not use the result to create a top-end Albariño in 2019, because the staves could bring excessive vanilla flavours to the wine.

However, he said that he definitely plans to release something from the 2020 vintage, when the Albariño will be fermented and aged in the barrels, and intends to call the wine ‘Lancero’, due to the cigar-like form of the vessel.

Bodega Garzón is not the first winery to use elongated barrels, with Fraser Gallop, a producer in Margaret River, taking on similar vessels for making Sauvignon Blanc, starting with the 2015 vintage, although this estate was inspired by the Loire’s Didier Dagueneau, who was already using such specialist vessels for Sauvignon from Pouilly Fumé.

Bodega Garzón, however, had been tempted to try the Vicard barrel having spotted one at Marchesi di Barolo in the Piedmont.

At the moment, Bodega Garzón make two types of Albariño, with the pricier version hailing from a nine-year old single vineyard, that is fermented in a tulip-shaped concrete tank, and kept on its lees for 8-9 months. 10,000 bottles have been produced of this expression since its inception in 2015.

Bodega Garzón is a remarkable estate 18km inland from fashionable coastal village José Ignacio, which itself is near the much larger resort town of Punta del Este on Uruguay’s Atlantic coast.

Standing alone on a hilly terrain not unlike the undulating landscape of Tuscany, Bodega Garzón spans 210 hectares of high-density vines on free draining gravel-like decomposed granite soils – which is the oldest granite on the planet.

The property was planted with no expense spared by expert viticulturalist Eduardo Felix in 2008, with support from famous Italian wine consultant Alberto Antonini – who still works with the estate.

As for the winery, with as much as US$200 million (£157m) spent on the entire operation by the founder and owner, Argentine oil and gas billionaire Alejandro Bulgheroni, this is, as you might imagine, one of the most advanced and impressive wineries in the world, and was declared New World Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast in 2018.

Bodega Garzón make a top end red blend called Balasto, which is the first wine from Uruguay to be sold through La Place de Bordeaux, and one of just four from South America that are handled by the French négociants: aside from Almaviva, there’s also Chile’s Seña and Argentina’s Catena.

You can read more about Bodega Garzón and Balasto in the July edition of the drinks business, or by clicking here.

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