I recently spent an enjoyable week on an exploratory trip to Uruguay. Whilst much time was spent checking out hotels from basic eco-yurts to the palatial Sofitel Montevideo Casino Carrasco; a large part of the week was devoted to sampling the culinary delights and wines of this peaceful small republic. As one can expect in a country where there are nearly four cows to every person we ate a lot of meat, in fact, seven steaks in as many days; accompanying salads are draped with dried ham and cheese, but that was just a warm up for huge steaks. At an asado or Parillada grill, these are served only after a generous helping of blood sausage with the odd baked potato. Fortunately there are plenty of good local wines to wash all this protein down. The Tannat grape is the vine that Uruguay claims as its own was probably brought by the Basques in the 19th century. It produces a full-bodied strong red that has fruity notes, but I also had a lovely crisp rosé at the Altos de Ballena vineyard. Most of the vineyards are on hills cooled by sea breezes and upon ancient metmorphic rock. The Tannat is often blended with Merlot or Cabernet to lessen the high tannin content. At the Bodega Narbona we even had some local grappa, a fire-water that is mellowed with local honey. The greatest charm of the country was that it felt like you were stepping back in time to a place where there were hardly any cars and lunch could take up to two hours without you feeling guilty. To plan your escape to Uruguay see our suggested holiday ideas or call our travel experts.