Montevideo and wineries: between sips and toasts in this region in Uruguay
In the capital of Uruguay, days go by peacefully with strolls through the Ciudad Vieja and the picturesque wineries near the city center
To understand Uruguay you need to try a good asado and savor a glass of wine made from tannat grapes, the most beloved variety in the country. Beef cooked to perfection can be found at many establishments in Montevideo, and nearly 90% of wine production is consumed domestically. This means two things: one, of course, is that Uruguayans really like their wine and meat; the other is that you have to visit the country to try the best of what it has to offer in loco. You don’t need to venture far from the capital to see some plantations – we selected four great bodegas that are an average of 18.5 miles [30 km] from the historic city center. Grab a glass and come explore charming Montevideo and its surroundings.
“Welcome to our house,” says the slogan at the bodega Bouza. A staff of just 15 handles all the tasks, following the sacred commandments of artisanal production: using only their own grapes, minimal intervention in the crops and fruits that are picked and selected by hand. Anyone visiting the bodega and manor inspired by French châteaux will feel right at home. You can watch and even help with the grape harvest in February and March and see the private collection of motorcycles and antique cars.
The history of the bodega Carrau began in Spain in 1752 when the patriarch purchased a vineyard. In 1930, the family set off for Uruguay to brave new terroirs. Since then, 10 generations have carried on the tradition. Not far from the capital, at the lovely colonial house that dates from 1887, tourists can sample and purchase some of their most famous products. In addition to a stroll among the vines, you can also participate in short enology courses and learn a bit about the Carrau legacy.
The region that’s home to the bodega Juanicó was known for its livestock breeding. That is until the owner of the land, Don Francisco Juanicó, noticed the quality of the fruit growing in his backyard. The man was no fool. Studies of the soil’s chemistry would later confirm his suspicions: its composition was very similar to that of Bordeaux, France. A tour of the grounds also includes a visit to the overlook where you can observe over 40 bird species.
There are four tours available at the bodega H. Stagnari. On the longest and most elaborate, visitors are welcomed by an authentic Stagnari, who takes them on a walk around the farm and to a tasting session of the four best wines – including Reserva de La Família, which features just 500 bottles per harvest. A lunch comprised of five dishes and succulent beef cuts tops off the visit.
The best of the capital
Plaza de la Constituición is where the main political and religious buildings are located. Make sure to stop by the luncheonette La Pasiva to try the chivito, a traditional sausage sandwich, and browse the antique market held every Saturday. Meanwhile, the nearby Plaza Independencia holds a bit of the city’s colonial past. There, you’ll find the Puerta de la Ciudadela, the old entrance to the fort wall that surrounded Montevideo, and the recently opened Museo del Tango inside Palacio Salvo, one of the city’s icons.
“For days now I’ve felt like a foreigner in Montevideo,” writer Eduardo Galeano (born and raised there) once said. If there was one place in town that made him feel at home, it was Café Brasilero, opened in 1877. He used to spend his mornings reading by the window with a cup of coffee.
Mercado del Puerto
Ask any local where to find the best asado in Montevideo and they’ll point you to one place: the Mercado del Puerto. The iron structure of the building that dates from 1868 is often cloaked in smoke that billows from the restaurants’ grills. It’s there that the delicious steaks are prepared to be served to diners at the counters and tables.
If you’re looking to meet Uruguayans on the weekend, head for the ramblas, avenues that run alongside the Rio de la Plata. They stretch for 12 miles [19 km], and the most popular way to explore them is on bike, with strategic stops: at the freshwater beaches (the most famous is Playa de los Pocitos); at the Punta Carretas lighthouse; at Parque Rodó and Plaza Virgílio.
LATAM has direct flights to Montevideo from: Santiago, Lima, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Special thanks to: Mariella Volppe (Ministerio de Turismo) and Los Caminos del Vino.