This boutique winery is a working farm by a family started in 1942 as an orchard. Here the family grows three red grapes: Tannat, Merlot, and Tempanillo, and two types of white grapes: Albarino, and Chardonnay.
The grandson of the family took our small group on a tour and explained they have 30 hectares of vineyards and produce approximately 120k bottles of wine per year. The focus of this winery is not on production at Bouza, but instead on quality.
The parcels of grapes are small and the rows are wide. They are each tended to carefully and the different parcels are treated on specific schedules.
We learned that the winery is organic and no irrigation is needed because Uruguay gets so much rain. Bouza winery experiments on different parcels, using different growing techniques for different vines. For instance, they used granite rock at the base of some of the vines to reflect heat from the sun and offer soft light to the bottom of the vines (these grapes grow close to the ground).
The harvest is in February or March depending on the maturation of the grapes. I found it interesting that the crews harvest at night when the day is at its lowest temperature. At Bouza, grapes are harvested by hand.
The first step after picking the grapes is the selecting table. It vibrates and knocks items that aren't just the grapes through a strainer. Then the grapes move on to another selection table where people pick out any grapes that aren't perfect. The grapes ride a conveyor belt and go through two rollers. They aren't crushed, however, because that would create a bitter taste. (You can see the processing area behind the guests in the photo below.)
There are three types of tanks for wine: steel, French oak and concrete. The concrete tanks are original to the farm but rarely used now. In the tanks, fermentation begins and the grapes change from juice, to a sugary mixture, to alcohol.
(French oak tanks)
Our guide told us more about why French oak barrels and tanks are popular in the wine making world: inside the containers, French oak isn't sealed completely. The wood is slightly porous allowing oxygen to come in and help the chemicals, giving stability to the wine. White wines age six to nine months and reds age eight to 18 months.
From the processing room, we went to the area where the wine is stored. Interestingly, the family has a cellar inside a cellar where they keep several bottles from each year of production. This way, they can get together periodically and sample the variations, "tasting the journey" as the winery matures.
At Bouza, there is also a fantastic antique car showroom. The "father" of the family collects old cars. The cars are started up and driven every week and any that fall into disrepair are immediately fixed. There are full time employees here that only work on the cars!
My favorite of the lot is this little one (below). It was manufactured by an airplane company in Germany and is built with parts of a plane! Fascinating.
Once our tour was complete, my guide Tamara and I were escorted to the gorgeous restaurant for lunch and wine tasting. The restaurant at Bouza is modern and spacious. There were large crowds there for business lunches even at 2pm when we were seated!
While I adored Narbona winery, Bouza is a different experience all together. Both are certainly worth visiting just to see the different styles of wineries in the region and the various approaches to growing and tending to grapes.