Brian from Ferocious Grape doesn’t owe me money.
When I was somewhat skeptical (read: incredulous) about the idea of paying over $20 for a Chardonnay from the vinuous hotbed of Uruguay as he was suggesting, we made a bet: if I tried the wine and gave it less than 85 points on PnP, he’d buy it back from me. Always one to step up to a challenge and jump at the chance of drinking guaranteed wine from random South American countries, I grabbed the bottle and made plans to crack it ASAP. After a weekend of extravagant wine drinking, I thought there was no better way to get my palate down to Earth than with a solid bottle of Uruguaian Chardonnay…
Much to my (pleasant) surprise, the Stagnari wasn’t half bad. Despite multiple attempts to dig something up on this wine online that wasn’t in Spanish, the best I got was that it was a Chard grown and constructed to please the winemaker’s wife’s palate (she’s the Virginia in “De Virginia”). It is certainly different from your standard Californian Chardonnay: while they tend to be a deep golden colour, Uruguay’s Chard rendition was much lighter and thinner and was a pale, transparent straw hue instead. It wasn’t overly intense on the nose, but I got fruit first and foremost, red delicious apple and pear with a hint of pineapple. There were also subtle secondary aromas of vanilla and something like marshmallow, but nothing was heavy or weighed down; on the whole, the scent was quite clean. My resident nosing expert took the concept of “clean” in a whole new direction when she quite seriously declared that the wine smelled mostly like fresh laundry: ”Light and airy, with hints of soap, clean sheets and water.” Thankfully, no Bounce or Tide carried over to the palate, which featured rounded notes of apple, canteloupe, butter and buttered popcorn. The Stagnari was medium-to-full bodied, with a creamy texture and present but understated acidity, leaving no sharp corners to the wine at all. My guess is that this smoothness, as well as the buttery flavours, were the result of malolactic fermentation, a process that some white wines and all red wines go through that converts the wine’s sharp malic acid (think Granny Smith apple acid) into softer lactic acid (think lactose in milk), leaving the wine rounder and less crisp. In this case, the quiet acidity, low alcohol (12%, as compared to most Cali Chards at 14%+) and soft texture made the Stagnari seem almost delicate, which made its clean, light finish seem appropriate.
This may not have been the best white wine I’ve ever had, but it was quite enjoyable start to finish, and more importantly, it was a super fun drinking experience. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a wine from Uruguay! Everyone but Brian and maybe two or three of the wine folk on Twitter likely still have their hands firmly rooted on their keyboard. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the allure of potentially free wine, I probably would never have picked this out of the store’s lineup either. But if you look on a map, Uruguay has the same latitude as Argentina’s most famous wine area (and home of most of the Malbecs you’ve ever purchased), Mendoza. So why not? Uruguay is likely still figuring things out as a wine country, but I won’t be so quick to discount weird and wacky bottles from strange places in the future. Brian 1, My Prejudices 0.
$20 to $25 CDN