Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Seafood Fear Momgering: The Mercury Myth

The public needs to understand that the media too often engages in fear mongering concerning mercury in seafood. Listen up and stop worrying. The health benefits of seafood consumption far outweigh the risks.

For several years, I have been advising my readers on this issue. In my post Eat More Fish! Significant Health Benefits, I provided information from a Harvard doctor noting studies that showed Omega-3s were the only dietary factor proven to reduce cardio-related deaths, and by as much as one-third. The doctor also discussed that fears of mercury were vastly exaggerated and that the health benefits of seafood outweighed any risk. In follow up articles over the years, such as Rant: Stop Worrying, Seafood is Safe and The Healthiest Food You Can Eat?I have provided information from other experts, supporting these matters.

However, despite the mass of scientific studies into this area, the media often chooses to exaggerate the risks of mercury, to make consumers fearful of eating seafood, As I mentioned in SENA14: How Can We Increase Seafood Consumption in the US?, media stories that discuss the risks of eating seafood outnumber articles about the benefits by about 4 to 1. This is because scary articles get more attention from readers, and thus sell more newspapers and magazines, or gain better ratings. These scary articles are not because the media truly believes mercury is a major threat. This is just about money and consumers need to look beyond the fear mongering.

All consumers should check out a recent article in Forbes, titled The Activist-Led Panic Against Mercury In Fish Is Harming The American Diet and written by Gavin Gibbons, vice president of the National Fisheries Institute. Mr. Gibbons addresses this fear mongering about mercury in seafood and does an excellent job of cutting through the myths. As he rightfully point out, the significant health benefits of seafood are "...based on countless independent, peer-reviewed studies..." 

And as for the potential danger from mercury? "But it’s also true that no published, peer-reviewed scientific study can locate a single case of mercury toxicity from the normal consumption of commercial seafood in the United States. Nor is there any evidence that countries like Japan, where the average consumer eats as much as ten times more seafood than Americans, have suffered from an epidemic of mercury poisoning." 

How many people do you know have died from heart disease, or have serious problems relating from it?  I am sure most everyone knows people negatively affected by cardiovascular disease, and seafood consumption could have reduced the risk for all those people. Nearly 600,000 people die each year due to cardiovascular disease and it is the #1 killer of women. Now, how many people you know who have died from mercury poisoning? I bet you probably don't know anyone. 

Eat more seafood. It is one of the healthiest foods you can eat, and its benefits have been scientifically supported by thousands of studies. Do not let the fears of mercury prevent you from consuming seafood. Learn the truth about the risk of mercury, and understand that the benefits of seafood far outweigh any minimal risk from seafood.

And media, stop the fear mongering! Stop it now!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rant: Sex, Drugs & Restaurant Reviews

When you describe a restaurant experience to someone, do you use the language of drug use or sex? That choice speaks volumes about the type of food you ate, as well as the the size of your check.

I've been immersed in a fascinating new book, The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu by Dan Jurafsky. The book explains and expounds upon various food-related words, as well as examining the role of words in everything from menus to restaurant reviews. It is part history and science, psychology and etymology. If you love food, it is an excellent read, one which will intrigue and interest you, as well as make you think of food in different ways. I highly recommend this book and I'll likely be writing, in the near future, about a few other things I learned from it.

In one of the chapters, Sex, Drugs and Sushi Rolls, Jurafsky explores some of the language used in restaurant reviews. In general, it was found that positive restaurant reviews were more likely to use sexual metaphors, though sexual metaphors were most commonly used when describing expensive restaurants. It seems that when people spend a lot of money at dinner, they desire a special experience, one which is as good as great sex. Which restaurant experience was the last one you would describe as orgasmic?

There are twp types of food which are most associated with sexual metaphor: sushi and dessert. With sushi, a number of restaurants create Maki rolls with sex-related names, while the texture of raw fish can also bring sexual metaphor to the forefront. With dessert, the texture is also very important, leading to the use of words that carry sexual overtones, such as sticky, silky, and gooey. Good desserts are often described as seductive and orgasmic.

As an aside, the presence of a good dessert at a restaurant can lead to a higher rating for that restaurant, at least when Yelp was analyzed. In a study, reviews that failed to mention dessert gave a lower average rating than reviews that mentioned it. In addition, the more the review discussed the dessert, the higher the rating. Restaurants need to pay attention to the important of dessert to many of their customers. Dessert cannot just be an afterthought.

In restaurant reviews of less expensive restaurants, sexual metaphors are much less common and instead you will find more of the language of drug use. I'm referring to snack foods and bar foods, burgers and fried chicken, cupcakes and fried twinkies. In describing such foods, people may state they crave the foods, are addicted to them, or need a fix. No longer is the meal equated to a sexual experience, but instead it is equated more to a shot of heroin or a vial of crack. Are such foods your drug of choice?

Why is this so? Jurafsky states they these foods are guilty pleasures, foods we know are not the best for our health but which we want anyways. That is similar reasoning you would hear from a drug addict. In addition, we try to cast the blame on the food itself, claiming we are not at fault, that we are helpless against the allure of the food. Interestingly, women are more likely to use such drug metaphors when describing food, possibly because they are under more societal pressure to eat well.

If you write restaurant reviews, check your old reviews and see if all of this is true for you. If you share your restaurant experiences with others, even just verbally, try to recall if this applies to what you have said about restaurants. If you read restaurant reviews, see if the writer uses drug or sex metaphors, and if they conform to what the studies have found.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting wine and food items that are upcoming. **********************************************************
1) Lovin’ Spoonfuls is a Boston based, 501c3 non-profit organization that is legitimizing local, immediate, and responsible food rescue. They facilitate the rescue and distribution of healthy, fresh food that would otherwise be discarded. Lovin’ Spoonfuls works efficiently to deliver this food directly to the community organizations and resources where it can have the greatest impact.

Each year Lovin’ Spoonfuls hosts The Ultimate Tailgate Party,is a yearly benefit featuring 16 of Boston’s “MVP” chefs cooking high end versions of their favorite tailgate food, a silent auction, entertainment and much more. The theme of the event reflects the Lovin’ Spoonfuls mission: battling hunger is a team sport.

This year, Lovin’ Spoonfuls is thrilled to honor founding Culinary Board Members Joanne Chang and Christopher Myers during the VIP hour, for their inaugural and continuing support of their work. As Chef + Owner of Flour Bakery & Cafe, Joanne has become a nationally renowned author, and together with her husband, celebrated restaurateur Christopher, they own and operate Myers + Chang, the acclaimed South End restaurant. Christopher and Joanne are beacons for the charities they support and ingrained in the fabric of the Boston community.

On Sunday, November 9, Lovin' Spoonfuls will host the fourth annual Ultimate Tailgate Party and celebrate their upcoming 5th anniversary, all while overlooking Boston’s scenic waterfront at Sam's. The event will is sponsored by Bank of America and the John W. Henry Family Foundation.

The annual event, also hosted by Esti & Drew Parsons who are co-owners of Sam’s, features an all-star team of Boston’s premiere chefs who will once again join the party by cooking their own creative takes on their favorite tailgate food. Guests will be able to enjoy creative comfort food from Lovin’ Spoonfuls Culinary Board Members Jamie Bissonnette (Coppa and Toro), Joanne Chang (Myers + Chang and Flour Bakery), and newest Culinary Board member Michael Scelfo (Alden & Harlow), as well as Karen Akunowicz (Myers + Chang), Asia Mei (Sam's at Louis Boston), Colin Lynch (Menton, No. 9 Park), Louis DiBiccari (Tavern Road), Matthew Gaudet (West Bridge), Will Gilson (Puritan & Co.), Tiffani Faison (Sweet Cheeks), Daniel Bojorquez (La Brasa), Jason Cheek (Merrill & Co.), Steve Postal (Commonwealth), Christine & Carla Pallotta (Nebo), Jason Albus (Fairsted Kitchen), the team from Mei Mei Street Kitchen, and Keith Pooler (Bergamot).

The Ultimate Tailgate Party kicks off with an exclusive VIP hour featuring a dazzling display of cheese & charcuterie, courtesy of Wasik's Cheese Shop and Josh Smith of New England Charcuterie, from 6pm-7pm. A limited number of VIP tickets are available for $250, which allows guests entry into the VIP hour and includes all the cheese and charcuterie you desire, champagne, a meet & greet with the chefs, exclusive "buy it now" privileges for all silent auction items, and a VIP gift bag full of swag from some of our local supporters. Last but certainly not least, the VIP hour features an intimate celebration honoring Founding Culinary Board Members Joanne Chang and Christopher Myers. Beer, wine, and cocktails will be shaken and served by Sam's own Jon Parsons and Nick Korn of OFFSITE.

The main event will start at 7pm, and general admission tickets are $100. The ticket price includes access to chefs tasting stations and complimentary signature cocktails, beer from Peak Organic Brewery, as well as wine and sparkling from sponsor M.S. Walker. The Tailgate Party will also feature a silent auction with exclusive food and New England experiences, plus a photo booth stocked with everyone's favorite football memorabilia.

All tickets are available for purchase at: lovinspoonfulstailgate14.eventbrite.com

2) William Kovel and his team at Catalyst have joined forces with Templeton Rye for an exclusive Templeton Rye Pork Project Dinner. Templeton Rye Whiskey is also in the pig-raising business called the Templeton Rye Pork Project and they have sold one of their prized pigs to Catalyst who will host a “snout to tail” dinner. The team behind Templeton Rye feeds their exclusive rye mash to their pigs to give them a unique taste and flavor. There are a limited amount of pigs that are raised and there is a wait list of restaurants to order them.

The Templeton Rye Heritage Pork Project stemmed from their close association to agriculture and livestock in Iowa. They breed their heritage pigs and feed them a diet that includes spent Templeton Rye Mash.

Catalyst will have a multi-course pig feast, paired with Templeton Rye Cocktails on Sept. 23, at 7pm, and tickets are $71 per person. This is a unique opportunity to try one of the best pig dinner experiences available. The menu includes:

For The Table
Assorted Charcuterie With Traditional Accompaniments
First Course
Crispy Pork Rillettes, Shaved Fennel And Apple Salad, Fig Mustard
Second Course
Family Style Smoked Pork Loin
Sparrow Arc Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Baked Beans With Braised Pork
Hard Cider Braised Cabbage
Rye-Whiskey BBQ Sauce
Corn Bread
Third Course
Family Style Sage-Apple Stuffed Porchetta
Sauteed Rapini With Pine Nuts And Raisins
Rosemary And Garlic Roasted Potatoes
Roasted Cippolini Onions
Agro Dolce Peach Mostarda
Dessert
Sticky Toffee Pudding, Dates, Rye Ice Cream
Roasted Peaches, Buttermilk Biscuit, Rye Vanilla Chantilly

Space is limited and Reservations are required. Please call 617-573-7000.

3) This week, Anthony Caturano, Chef & Owner of Prezza in the North End, will begin dishing out seasonal favorites to capture the most fitting flavors of fall including pumpkin, acorns, mushrooms, corn, figs, apples and pears. Chef Caturano’s revamped menu combines classic hearty Italian comfort cooking with the fresh and full-bodied tastes that emanate his style.

New to Prezza’s appetizer options include the following: Burrata (roasted pumpkin, sea salt, pistachio vinaigrette - $16); Wild Mushroom Soup (porcini cream, white beans, roasted tomatoes, pecorino cheese - $15); Roasted Figs (wrapped in prosciutto with gorgonzola, aged balsamic – $16); and, Bibb Lettuce (apples, walnuts, blue cheese, walnut vinaigrette - $14).

For housemade pasta selections, seasonal favorites include: Pumpkin Ravioli (lobster, mascarpone, brown butter, sage - $18/$36); Corn Raviolini (pancetta, corn, rock shrimp, white wine, garlic, butter, parmigiano cheese - $16/$32); and, Pear Raviolini (pecorino, mascarpone, cheese, butter - $16/$32). There are also new preparations of signature entrees like the Seared Scallops (lobster mushrooms, warm Brussels sprouts salad, roasted potatoes - $36) and Roasted Halibut (acorn squash puree, spiced hazelnuts, sautéed baby kale - $38).

To conclude with something sweet, indulge in Pumpkin Tiramisu (espresso, ladyfingers, cocoa power, whipped cream - $12).

Other classic Prezza dishes that will remain on the menu include: Grilled Clams (sausage, tomato, lemon zest, oregano - $16); Wood Grilled Squid and Octopus (braised white beans, toasted parsley - $16); Zucchini Flowers (pancetta, polenta, roasted tomato - $16); Lobster Fra Diavlo (saffron tagliatelle, garlic chives, roasted tomato, fennel, chili flake, lobster meat - $18/$36); Crispy Pork Chop (vinegar peppers, potatoes, roasted red onions - $30); Homemade Meatballs (sausage, ribs, tomato, polenta - $28); Halibut (creamed corn, leeks, potato, bacon - $38); and, Lamb Chops (broccoli rabe, pickled chanterelles, roasted potatoes - $40).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cannonball Jellyfish: Eat Up Americans

Do you enjoy eating jellyfish? I'm guessing many of you do not.

In the past, the gelatinous texture of (or the perception of such) jellyfish dishes has prevented me from enjoying it. Last Spring, I dined at Miya's Sushi in New Haven, Connecticut, and was a bit hesitant at one point, knowing that a dish of Cannonball Jellyfish Nigiri  was coming to our table. How would I handle that gelatinous texture this time? To be polite, would I need to eat it despite my dislike of its taste? Spitting it out would not be acceptable.

However, when it came to the table, it didn't look like other jellyfish I had seen (see the photo above). It had a pinkish hue to it, and had been topped by a spicy roasted sesame marinade. When I tasted it, I found the texture to be more firmer, almost the springiness of a gummy bear. It wasn't that mushy gelatinous feel that is off-putting to me. In fact, the Cannonball Jellyfish was quite tasty, and I would definitely order it again. Kudos to Chef Bun Lai for preparing this delectable delight.

But what is a Cannonball Jellyfish?

Also known as a cabbage head jellyfish or jellyball, it acquired its primary name because it resembles a cannonball's shape and size. Its dome-shaped cap can grow to about 10 inches in diameter and beneath the cap are numerous,short tentacles. Though they generally do not sting humans, they still possess a toxin which can cause cardiac problems, so care needs to be taken when catching them. Cannonball jellyfish can be found along the East Coast as far south as Brazil and also in parts of the Pacific Ocean. It is the Gulf Coast which seems to be capitalizing the most on the great presence of these jellyfish.

They are seasonal creatures, generally seen from the later winter into the summer, and are more than abundant in the Gulf waters. Once seen as a nuisance, fishermen in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, are starting to reap significant profits from these jellyfish. When they are plentiful, a vessel can fill its trawl net in only five minutes, and must be careful not to leave their net in the water too long or they'll have such a heavy load their nets won't be able to handle it. Fishermen garner about 9 or 10 cents per pound, and can earn $5,000 to $10,000 a day. Certainly a lucrative business.

In Georgia, the cannonball jellyfish industry began as an experimental fishery, eventually becoming a recognized fishery in 2013. During the experimental period, the sustainability of the fishery was examined and the result was that populations remained stable, justifying the establishment of a recognized fishery. Jellyfish trawlers in Georgia must adhere to a number of regulations, including a Turtle Excluder Device (TED), to prevent the capture of leatherback sea turtles. It has become Georgia’s third largest commercial fishery, after shrimp and crab, and that is even more remarkable when you consider the tiny amount of licensed vessels.

Only five vessels can legally catch cannonball jellyfish. Just five! The primary reason for this limitation is that there is only a single processor and exporter in Georgia, Marco Seafood, which can only handle approximately 22,000 thousand kilos of jellyfish at a time. At the processing plant, the jellyfish bodies are salted, dried, preserved and packaged. During that process, the jellyfish lose 80% to 90% of their weight.

The vast majority of this processed jellyfish is exported to Japan, China and Thailand as there is very little market for them in the U.S. The Asians often use the jellyfish in soups and salads, and even believe the cannonball jellyfish has medicinal properties, such as relieving pain from arthritis. Though the flesh is considered relatively bland, Asians enjoy and savor the texture, which they refer to as crunchy-crispy.

In South Carolina, Steven Giese is hoping to launch a significant cannonball fishery with the creation of a new processing plant called Carolina Jelly Balls. This plant would be about five times as large as the Georgia plant. However, he has encountered some fierce resistance to his plan from locals. As such, the future of this new processing plant is ambiguous though if the Georgia plant has worked well, it would seem to give some proof in support of Giese's plans.

Is cannonball jellyfish sustainable? It doesn't appear that the major seafood sustainability organizations, like Seafood Watch, have spoken on this issue, generally because it isn't a matter they have studied well. We do know that jellyfish populations all across the world seem to be expanding in recent years. In addition, Georgia authorities have monitored their fishery for over 12 years, and there didn't appear to be any issues with sustainability. These fisheries are certainly worth watching over time, but for now, it seems cannonball jellyfish should be sustainable.

Why aren't more  Americans eating cannonball jellyfish? Chef Bun Lai proved to me that a simple, tasty dish can be made from this jellyfish. The texture shouldn't be an issue with anyone who enjoys squid or octopus. These jellyfish are also low in calories and high in protein, so they are good for you too. As I've said repeatedly, and most recently last week, Americans need to diversify the types of seafood they eat, to expand beyond the six basic species they usually consume. More chefs also need to work with this jellyfish, to create enticing dishes which will attract more people to it. Opposition to eating these jellyfish may be more psychological than anything else, so it is time to get over that issue and embrace the cannonball jellyfish.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Wines Of Uruguay (Part 3)

The Wines of Uruguay 2nd Annual U.S. Trade Tour was an excellent opportunity to sample and learn about a wide range of Uruguayan wines which are currently being exported to the U.S., though all are not yet available in Massachusetts. At this event, there were 16 wineries, pouring a total of over 80 wines, including Sparkling, Rosé, White, Red and Dessert wines. Though I didn't taste everything, I was able to sample about 50 wines, enough to form some preliminary thoughts about the wines of Uruguay.

In general, the white wines, mainly Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, were dry, clean and well balanced, with more of a European flair. They were food friendly and many were good values. The red wines were also well balanced, food friendly, and more interesting than most of the white wines. I was intrigued to see the range of Tannat wines, from easy drinking, inexpensive wines to higher end, more tannic and complex wines.

The easy drinking, inexpensive Tannats would make an excellent introduction for wine consumers to the wines of Uruguay. As inexpensive Malbec wines from Argentina caught on with consumers, so could these inexpensive Tannats catch on too. Their often fruity and approachable style would please many wine drinkers, and providing a good introduction to the Tannat. Consumers could eventually move up to the Tannat blends, where grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon help to soften the tannins of the Tannat, making them approachable too, but with added complexity and flavor.. The high-end, single varietal Tannats could intrigue and delight the wine lover, who seeks something new to experience.

Besides Tannat, other red grapes seem to possess some potential in Uruguay too, from Pinot Noir to Cabernet Franc. Though there were only a handful of such wines at the tasting, I generally enjoyed what I tasted and would like to see more examples to better ascertain their potential. In addition, I would like to explore more of their Sparkling and Rosé wines, as I only had a single example of each, As Uruguay continues to experiment and study, they will better be able to determine which grapes will grow best in the different terroirs of their country. Uruguay isn't a one-trick pony which must rely only on a single grape, Tannat. It is a diverse wine region with the potential to produce numerous interesting and delicious wines.

Now, I''m going to discuss some of the Uruguayan wines which most intrigued me at this event. Please note that I didn't taste all of the wines at the event, and won't be mentioning every wine I tasted. This is more a survey of some of the most interesting and delicious wines I encountered.

Alto De La Ballena
With a name that roughly translates as "high of the whales," this winery was founded in 2000 with the purchase of 20 hectares of land in the Maldonando region. Their original goal was to make top notch Merlot, though they have found their land is excellent for producing Syrah, which has been compared to that found in Crozes-Hermitage.

The 2010 Alto De La Ballena Reserva Merlot, which sees about 1 year in French oak, was fruity and pleasant, an easy-drinking wine. The 2010 Alto De La Ballena Reserva Cabernet Franc was more intriguing to me, with deep black fruit flavors, smooth tannins, mild spice notes and a lengthy,pleasing finish. Based on some of my other tastings of Uruguayan Cabernet Francs, I think this is a very good region for that grape. The prize of their wines was the 2010 Cetus Syrah, about $60, which isn't yet available in Massachusetts. Only about 1800 bottles were produced, and it is a big,though not an overpowering wine, with rich, black fruit flavors, an underlying backbone of spice, some floral elements, and a certain elegance. One of my top three wines of the tasting.

Antigua Bodega Stagnari
With roots extending back to 1910, and even longer roots to wine making in Italy, this winery owns about 20 hectares of vineyards. Their 2014 Del Pedregal Chardonnay, which sees no oak, was clean and well balanced, with pleasant apple, lemon and pineapple flavors. Easy drinking, this is a pleasing style which should please many.

Finca Narbona
The winery produces about 80,000 bottles annually, and their wines are not yet available in Massachusetts though I hope they can find a local distributor in the near future. Pictured above is Fabiana Bracco, the Export Manager for Narbona.

The 2013 Puerto Carmelo Sauvignon Blanc is produced more in a French style and made to be food friendly. It has prominent fruit flavors, especially grapefruit and lemon, with a clean taste and nice acidity. The 2013 Narbona Blend 001 (about $25) was excellent, a Tannat based blend where they won't reveal the other grapes. With moderate tannins, the wine had intriguing depth of flavor to it, a delicious blend of black fruit and spice, with hints of leather, blueberry and herbal notes. Highly recommended. Pinot Noir is made by only about 7 wineries in Uruguay, and the 2013 Narbona Pinot Noir (about $30-$35) is an elegant example, with pleasing red fruit flavors, some minerality and a hint of earthiness. The 2010 Narbona Tannat Roble (about $40) is big and bold, tannic and muscular, with almost a sweetness to the rich, dark fruits. Make sure you have a thick, juicy steak handy.

Bodega Garzon
Located on the eastern border of the Maldonado region, they are one of only two wineries that currently produces an Albarino. Their 2014 Garzon Saiuvignon Blanc ($14) sees no oak and sits for about 6 months on the lees. Delicious grapefruit and citrus flavors, with more richness than other Sauvignon Blancs. An easy-drinking value wine. The 2013 Garzon Albarino also sits on the lees for about 6 months, and was an excellent example of this varietal. Crisp and clean with tasty white peach and citrus flavors, as well as some with mineral accents. Would love this wine with some fresh seafood.

Artesana Winery
Established in 2007 and located in the Canelones region, this small winery produces only around 2000 cases, hoping to eventually expand to 4000 cases. They have a 20 acre vineyard and are the only winery which grows Zinfandel. They just acquired a Massachusetts distributor, Humboldt Imports, though their Tannat-Zinfandel-Merlot blend is not yet available.

The 2012 Artesana Tannat ($16)  is a nice expression of Tannat, with tasty black fruit flavors, mild spice notes and hints of smoke. The tannins are moderate and the wine delivers plenty for this price. The 2012 Artesana Tannat-Merlot ($16) is a blend of 60% Tannat and 40% Merlot, which matures in both French and US oak. Smooth and easy-drinking, this was a compelling wine, blending red and black fruit flavors, spicy notes and mild tannins. This is the type of wine which would convert many wine drinkers to lovers of Tannat.

I was thoroughly impressed with the 2011 Tannat-Zinfandel-Merlot, a 55%/25%/20% blend that spent 24 months in French oak and only 130 cases were produced  The harmonious complexity of this wine was superb, and the restrained tannins made this wine even more compelling. There was so much going on in this wine, and all of it was pleasing and delicious. Highly recommended and one of the top three wines of the tasting.

Giminez Mendez:
They were the first winery in Uruguay to produce a wine with Malbec, and they were also the only winery at the tasting to showcase a Rosé. The 2014 Alta Reserva Malbec Rose, with a medium red color, was dry and clean with tasty red fruit flavors and good acidity. A pleasing, easy-drinking Rosé which can be enjoyed year round.


Bodegas Carrau
This family first made wine back in Spain around 1752 and eventually some of the family traveled across the Atlantic and started producing wine in Uruguay around 1930. They produce an intriguing portfolio of wines, from value wines to high-end bottlings, and consistently they are quality wines.

The only sparkling wine at the tasting was the 2009 Sust Vintage, Methode Champenoise Sparkling Wine ($24.99), a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. Aged for 30 months on the lees; this will remind you of a Champagne, dry and clean, with rich flavors of green apple, and brioche. The 2013 Savignon Blanc sur lie ($12.99) sees no oak and spends about 6 months on the lees. Tasty grapefruit and lemon flavors, it is more of a French style than a New Zealand wine. Especially interesting was the 1752 Gran Tradicion, a blend of 90% Petit Manseng and 10% Sauvignon Gris. Aromatic, this was a very herbal wine, with a nice depth of flavor and an intriguing finish. This should interest any wine lover seeking something different.

The inexpensive 2011 Tannat Reserva ($12.99) was elegant and delicious, delivering plenty of flavor and complexity for this low price point. An excellent introduction to Tannat. The 2007 Ysem ($20) is a blend of Tannat from their north and south vineyards, and is also elegant and delicious, with a bit more complexity and stronger fruit flavors than the Reserva. A step up for only a small amount of money. The 2009 Amat Single Vineyard Tannat ($30), from the Cerro Chapeau region, is aged in French and US oak for 18-24 months. With even greater complexity, and moderate tannins, this is a compelling wine, showing more of the potential of Tannat, without drowning you in tannins. This is a Tannat to impress your fellow wine lovers and is highly recommended.

Bouza Bodega Boutique
A family owned winery, they own two vineyards, totaling 25 hectares, one in the region of Las Violetas and other at Mellilla. They grow Albariño, Chardonnay, Merlot, Tempranillo and Tannat. The 2011 Bouza Albarino is bottled in a Riesling-style bottle, because the family liked its look. About 20% of this wine was matured in second-use oak and it also is aged on the lees for about three months. This wine had a bit of smokiness enhancing its deep, fruit flavors, and is a much different Albarino than the other wine I tried. The 2011 Bouza Tannat A6, aged in American oak for about 14 months, provided lots of spice, black fruit flavors and moderate tannins. There were  some interesting hints of other flavors on the finish, such as chocolate notes. The 2011 Bouza Monte Vide Eu is a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Tannat, and presents a silky smooth wine with intense red and black fruit flavors, mild spice and some floral accents. An impressive blend.

Marichal Winery
This is a family owned winery, founded in 1938 and located in the Canelones region, with about 50 hectares of vineyards.

The 2013 Marichal Premium Variety Tannat ($14-$16) sees no oak and is a fruity and approachable Tannat, an excellent introduction for those new to this grape. Just like inexpensive Malbecs appealed to consumers, this is the type of Tannat which should do the same. A step up is the 2011 Marichal Reserve Collection Tannat ($18-$20),  which spends about 12 months in oak, delivering more complexity, a bit more tannins, and deeper black fruit flavors and spicy notes on the finish. Again, it remains an approachable wine, and still at a very good price. The 2011 Marichal Reserve Collection Pinot/Tannat ($18-$20) is a 70%/30% blend that spends 10 months in oak. It presents a fruity wine with a rustic backbone, mild tannins, and a pleasing finish. An interesting blend that is another very approachable and reasonably priced wine.

One of the top three wines of the tasting was the 2011 Marichael Grand Reserve Tannat "A" ($55-$60), a wine that is only made in good vintages. It spends about 18 months in oak, sees no fining or filtering, and only about 2300 bottles were produced. This was an alluring and seductive wine, with intriguing complexity, intense flavors, silky tannins, and a lengthy and satisfying finish. This wine shows the high-end potential of Tannat, how tannins can be made manageable, and the depth of flavors that can be drawn forth from this grape. Highly recommended.

Traversa Winery
Founded in 1956, this family owned winery is one of the largest in Uruguay. They produce a port-like wine, the 2008 Licor de Tannat ($22). With 18.5% ABV, this dark red colored wine is smooth and appealing, with a mild sweetness, good acidity and subtle berry and coffee notes.. An excellent wine to sip after dinner, or paired with a dessert.

Based on my sampling of all these Uruguayan wines, I will certainly be on the hunt to try even more. There is excellent diversity in Uruguay, and even the Tannat presents itself differently in many different ways. As their exports continue to grow, more and more people will realize the winders of Uruguay, and it could replicate the success of Argentina. If you get a chance to try a wine from Uruguay, don't hesitate to take it.

What are some of your favorite wines from Uruguay?