Uruguayan Wine Country luxury travel

Uruguay may be dwarfed by Argentina and Chile’s wine production, but the small country commands a firm presence in the world of winemaking. Falling firmly in the category of New World wines, its vines can be traced directly to 18th-century wine-making Jesuits. The industry was subsequently grown by streams of European immigrants. Tannat, a punchy, bold red high in tannins is Uruguay’s signature varietal. 

Grapes grown in Uruguay are more akin to Bordeaux than those produced by its Andean neighbors. The climate is coastal, humid, and low in elevation. Generally, wines produced in Uruguay are well-balanced in both acidity and alcohol. The moderating influence of the Atlantic Ocean tempers the heat of summer, giving the wine an energy that’s been described as “fresh” and “vivacious.”

Carmelo

A winery in Carmelo, Uruguay
A vineyard near Carmelo, Uruguay

Most of Uruguay’s wine flows from vineyards near Montevideo and Canelone, but Carmelo is the industry’s historic darling. A quiet town in Uruguayan Wine Country, Carmelo has a coastal feel thanks to its location at the head of the Río de la Plata. (A river to some, a gulf to others.)

The town center has a few charms—Independence Square and Ignacio House (a famous painter)—and, more broadly, offers splendid sunset cruises and horseback riding in the surrounding woodlands. However, most visitors who travel this far off the beaten track come to sample Carmelo’s tannat wines—a varietal that put Uruguay winemaking on the map.

Wine tasting in this pocket-size destination is a wonderfully boutique experience.  Carmelo has several multigenerational, family-owned wineries with limited production, so you aren’t likely to see them on store shelves back at home. Set on picturesque estancias, there’s a deep attachment to these lands and an expression of pride with each pour.

Narbona Wine Lodge is the premier luxury accommodation in Carmelo. A Relais & Châteaux-affiliated lodge sitting on 123 acres, Narbona features just five handsomely appointed suites. Enjoy a privately guided tour of the cellars, lounge poolside or beneath the patio’s canopy of grape vines, retreat to the private riverside “beach” club, or pedal through the area on a leisurely afternoon of bike touring. An on-site dairy farm churns out artisanal cheese, yogurt, and ice cream, while orchard fruits are harvested to create jams. Find these homegrown and handmade provisions featured on artfully assembled charcuterie boards and on the restaurant menu. We recommend a savory grilled or stewed meat dish to temper tannat’s gripping tannins. 

Eastern Wine Country / Maldonado Region

Bodega Garzon
Bodega Garzon

Wine-loving travelers wanting to sample one of Uruguay’s newer appellations might spend a few days in the Moldonado Region. Vines here are rooted in volcanic, well-draining soil, cling to hilly terrain, and benefit from cool coastal winds. A few options exist for a luxury tour of Uruguay’s eastern wine country. 

Base yourself at Estancia Vik, a historic estancia in José Ignacio, constructed of white adobe and enveloped by open pampas. Sample the vintages cradled within the brick-barrel cellar and make a day trip to Pueblo Eden to sip fine wine, enjoy an olive oil tasting, and a long, splendid lunch. 

Alternatively, head east to call on the tasting room of Bodega Garzon near the sleepy town of the same name. Not only did the LEED-certified winery take Maldonado wines mainstream—you’ll find them on U.S. store shelves—its gastronomic offerings are stewarded by legendary Argentine Chef, Francis Mallman. Mallman serves as a Bodega Garzon ambassador and the culinary director, bringing with him his signature smoke and wood-fired cooking style. On a visit to Bodega Garzon, choose from a handful of enotourism experiences like winery tours (varying in exclusivity), vineyard picnics, or cooking classes. And without hesitation, make a reservation at the restaurant to savor regional flavors and seafood, served alongside bold but taught tannat and panoramic views of the enveloping countryside. 

A Sacromonte Landscape Hotel refugio | Image credit: Tali Kimelman

The Maldonado Region’s most upscale retreat is the experiential, five-star Sacromonte Landscape Hotel. Designed by architecture studio MAPA, this eco-friendly sanctuary offers 13 cabins (“refugio”) that uniquely camouflage into the landscape, thanks to their reflective material construction. Each offers superb views of Sacramonte’s 250 sprawling acres of postcard-pretty, rolling terrain. Choose a refugio tucked into the vineyards, nestled into the meadows, or seated at the edge of a small lake. Perched nearby atop the summit of a hill is Sacromonte’s farm-to-table restaurant, which serves mouth-watering barbecued meats, including wild boar. You can get there via an off-road electric buggy, which makes quick work of traversing the massive property. Otherwise, enjoy a memorable wine tasting and charcuterie board in the olive grove, cozy up to a fireplace, or take a star-spangled dip in your private plunge pool. 

Explore Uruguayan Wine Country on a map

José Ignacio

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Colonia del Sacramento

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Montevideo

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