Uruguay is also one of the most stable South American countries politically & economically and it is also rather beautiful – from the stunning UNESCO protected town of Colonia del Sacramento, to the rolling green fields home to their great cattle to the party beach scene at Punta del Este – Uruguay deserves a visit!
If you fancy a flutter, then there are very good ones on offer for the Rugby World Cup for Los Teros. Sadly, they are unlikely to get much further than the pool matches as they have a vicious draw having England, Wales, Australia and Fiji in their Pool. But for sheer enthusiasm and passion in the way they play, Los Teros should gain some new fans in the UK. This is all about taking their rugby to the next level for the future– and so I for one have them as my team to support when England are not playing! On 12th October, Uruguay celebrate Columbus Day , noting his arrival in the New World in 1492, but I fear they will not be celebrating getting through to the semi-finals. However, they will be an entertaining side to watch.
Captain: Santiago Uilaseca
Player to Watch: When not on National duty, Felipe Berchesi plays for Carcassone, and if given the chance, his boot should help rack up any penalty points the opposing teams give away.
Dates of Pool Matches:
Sunday 20th September vs Wales – Kick off 14.30 – Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Sunday 27th September vs Australia – Kick off 12.00 – Villa Park, Birmingham
Tuesday 6th October vs Fiji – Kick off 20.00 – Stadium mk, Milton Keynes
Saturday 10th October vs England – Kick off 20.00 Manchester City Stadium, Manchester
For more information on Uruguay Rugby – http://uru.org.uy
For full details of the Rugby World Cup 2015 follow : http://www.rugbyworldcup.com/
What to Eat & drink whilst watching Los Teros.
Food: Unsurprisingly for a country where cattle outnumber people four to one, beef is big on menus in Uruguay. And having enjoyed many an Asado (BBQ) in Uruguay, I can vouch for the quality of the meat. Unlike many other countries in South America, Uruguayan cattle are still mostly naturally grass fed and even more impressive is their complete traceability system to which 100% of their beef is subject, impressive in these days of food labelling issues. The Parrillero will be a wood fire BBQ with a rack set up similar to an instrument of medieval torture, where the rack can be winched up and down according to the heat required. A real Uruguayan Asado will not only include the usual cuts of beef but also chorizo, black pudding, sweetbreads and chitterlings (if you don’t know what the last are, if I were you, I would not ask!). To lay your hands on some authentic Uruguayan beef – http://www.tomhixson.co.uk
Similar to Argentina, having an influx in the 19th century of Italian & Spanish immigrants, mean that other principal dishes in Uruguay take their inspiration from these two old world countries. Pasta and gnocchi feature a lot (albeit spelt rather differently – Noquis!) so much so that the 29th of every month is Noquis day in Uruguay! For easy match day nibbles, take a pack of potato gnocchi (look in the fresh pasta section) pan fry with a drizzle of olive oil for 8 minutes till golden (stirring once) or bake them at 190 degrees with a little olive oil for 20 minutes turn once. Serve as they are sprinkled with good sea salt (I like the smoked salt from http://www.cornishseasalt.co.uk ) or with a dip.
The other perfect match day food is Empanadas – beer in one hand, Empanada in the other – perfect! Think something along the lines of a Cornish pasty, the dough is different but you can use puff pastry as a cheat if short on time. Fillings are traditionally meat, hard-boiled egg and lots of juicy onions. Most of them come designed with giants in mind – but if you want to make it more elegant, make canapé sized ones stuffed with cheese instead.
Pancho is a Uruguayan Hotdog – so could also work on match day – though I would be tempted to upgrade the frankfurter for a more serious sausage!
Oh by the way, for those old enough to remember pies in tins (do they still exist?) did you know that Fray Bentos is an actual place – in Uruguay!
Mate: The national drink of Uruguay is Mate. Made from the dried Yerba Mate plant, it is infused with boiling water. Taste wise, think a rather particular tasting tisane. The locals walk around everywhere (park benches to the beach!) sipping it through silver straws out of small gourds, and it is a sign of friendship to be offered to share Mate. Caffeine rich it could be a good one for the designated drivers!
Beer: Even Luis Suarez apparently found it hard to find his home beer here in the UK. Do look out for Zillertau or even the strangely named Patricia – but might be hard to find except through the specialist beer shops – see the full list on the Beer page
Wine: Uruguay is not somewhere that registers on most people’s wine radar when looking for a country to drink. But their wines are produced by family run estates and sadly they do not export that much to the UK as their production is limited. Thankfully we do see some wines from two of the leading estates – Juanico and Pisano and they are worth hunting out. Their flagship grape variety is Tannat, a blockbuster of a grape variety, which originated in Madiran in South West France. But it can be very versatile as well producing everything from deep coloured, heavy reds through to Sparkling wines.
Torrontes Pisano Rio de los Pajeros £13.99. Torrontes tends to be a “marmite” grape variety – you either love it or hate it! Made by the charming Pisano family, this wine has stunning floral notes of roses combined with honey – it’s a very food friendly wine (especially anything with Asian leaning flavours). Available from http://www.southamericanwinesonline.co.uk
Albarino Bouza – price n/a. Although Uruguay is better known for its Reds, this beautifully elegant white with superb minerality, shows what the country can produce in the whites as well. Sadly I cannot find currently in the UK, but they will happily ship directly from the estate and you could combine a case with some of their Single Parcel Reds as well. http://www.bodegabouza.com
Pisano Negro Tannat Brut Sparkling Tannat. Price n/a. Made in the traditional bottle fermented method in the same way as Champagne, this fun wine shows the versatility of Tannat. The lovely redcurrant like nose has a surprisingly dry finish. Great for watching the pre match count down! Their UK importer for stockist information is http://www.ellisofrichmond.co.uk
Atlantico Sur Garzon Vineyard Maldondado Marselan £8.50. Made by the Juanico wine estate, this is an absolute steal at this price and will appeal to a wide range of palates. Marselan is a little seen variety (it’s a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache) and this example makes me wish more was planted. It has great fruit backed up with beautiful freshness for rather too easy drinking. Made by the stunningly fabulous Santiago Deicas (who is rather a handy Rugby player himself) – this is a must try wine. Available at http://www.thewinesociety.com
Bouza Tempranillo Tannat £12.50. Mostly Tempranillo (the main grape variety of Rioja) blended with some structure giving Tannat, this wine pairs fabulously with all lamb dishes so either BBQ some lamb steaks marinated in redcurrant jelly – or if doing finger food for the match – then make some minty lamb meatballs . Available at The Wine Society as above.
Gran Bodegon £21. One of Juanico’s flagship wines, this never fails to impress at every outing. A blend of mainly Tannat but also Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Marselan creates a smooth, but powerful complex wine with no rough edges and in perfect harmony. Worth every penny. With peppered steak it works fantastically. Available at The Wine Society as above.
As well as the above – do visit http://www.winesofuruguay.co.uk – who have a good selection of Uruguay Wines and can despatch mixed cases.
Websites for the wine estates mentioned: