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With Garzón, Bulgheroni Looks To Build Uruguay’s Reputation In The U.S.

November 20, 2019

While wine regions like Chile and Argentina are well-developed in the U.S. market, their South American neighbor Uruguay is just coming on the radar. In 2013, Uruguay exported just 171,000 cases to the U.S., but last year the number grew to 285,000 cases, and the country’s wine reputation is getting a boost from global vintner Alejandro Bulgheroni, whose Bodega Garzón is becoming a touchstone for the category.

Bulgheroni, an Argentine billionaire with holdings across Italy, Argentina, Australia, and France, has poured more than $200 million into Garzón, which is situated in Uruguay’s Maldonado appellation. Unlike many of Uruguay’s wineries, which maintain the majority of production for their home market, Garzón exports two-thirds of its supply, with the U.S. being its top export destination.

Garzón’s production has soared lately, according to managing director Christian Wylie. “In four years, we’ve gone from 10,000 cases to 110,000 cases,” he says. “And we have the potential to reach 250,000 cases over the next couple years.”

In the U.S., where the brand is handled by Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits, growth is primarily driven by Garzón’s Tannat Single Vineyard ($30 a 750-ml.), Pinot Noir Rosé ($19), and Albariño Reserva ($20). At the high end, icon wine Balasto—a blend of Tannat, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Marselan—is traded on the Place de Bordeaux and is increasing the winery’s visibility in the luxury market. Wylie says another differentiator is Garzón’s focus on Albariño—it owns 90% of all the Albariño planted in South America, and plans to continue championing the grape.

Pacific Highway president Mark Giordano tells SND that Garzón is up about 67% in the U.S. so far this year and is projected to reach approximately 30,000 cases. “The market is responding well to the varietals, quality, and of course the story of the winery and the tourism aspect,” he says. “We expect Garzón’s sales to continue to accelerate over the coming years.”

As one of the first major projects outside of Uruguay’s Canelones region, where over 60% of wine production occurs, Garzón has been raising the credentials of Maldonado. “The traditional winegrowing regions in Uruguay are south, around Montevideo, and then west, toward Colonia and Buenos Aires,” says Wylie. “But the new region is Maldonado. We were one of the pioneers in exploring this cooler climate, and our investments in guest experiences here have jumpstarted enotourism in the region, where Punta del Este and Jose Ignacio are now top summer destinations.” Indeed, Garzón has grown into an expansive resort that encompasses 500 acres of vineyards, a luxury club with a golf course, a restaurant helmed by chef Francis Mallman, and olive oil production, among other initiatives.—Julia Higgins

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