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  • Writer's pictureNelly Ward

Wine Thrill of Brazil!

Carnaval, samba, beaches, football, coffee and caipirinhas are some of the things that might come to mind when you think of Brazil! It’s time to add wine to that list!

Hidden among the lush landscapes and vibrant culture, Brazil has been quietly producing wine for almost 500 years. Shaped by waves of immigrants and foreign influences, Brazil's wine history dates back to the mid-16th century with Portuguese colonists. Successful viticulture emerged in the mid-19th century with disease-resistant Isabella vines and later with European varieties brought by Italian immigrants. The arrival of multinational wine companies in the 1970s marked the modernisation of Brazil’s wine industry, bringing new technologies and techniques, leading to the production of export-quality wines.

One of the most unexpected aspects of Brazilian wine is the diversity of grape varieties being grown. American and hybrid grapes (Isabella, Niagara, and Bordô) still make up the majority of Brazil’s wine production, mostly of table wine. However, today, Brazilian producers, which number around 1,100, are making more and more quality still and sparkling wines from a wide range of international varieties, like most planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, followed by Merlot, Pinot Noir, Trebbiano, and Tannat, to Italian grapes like Teroldego and Barbera, to Portuguese varieties like Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional, are each thriving in specific regions.

Spanning from 5°N to 34°S, Brazil lies mostly outside the traditional 'wine belt' (30°S to 45°S), limiting its potential vineyard area, which at 83,000 ha is behind its prominent neighbours, Chile and Argentina. Brazil's diverse wine regions each offer unique characteristics. Brazil’s winegrowing areas are officially divided into six regions, though much of the country’s wine production happens outside these formal bounds. The southernmost region of Brazil is responsible for the majority of wine produced (and includes most of the official regions) in the country, but in Brazil’s central and northern regions, where the weather is less conducive to traditional winegrowing, innovative, experimental viticultural techniques are being deployed.

In Southern Brazil, the cooler, drier climate of Rio Grande do Sul, particularly the Serra Gaúcha region, is ideal for vineyards and is home to Brazil’s first DO, Vale dos Vinhedos, while Santa Catarina's high plateau excels with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Central Brazil’s Serra da Mantiqueira employs winter viticulture, highlighting Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. In Northern Brazil, the Vale do São Francisco in Bahia state is the closest wine region to the equator in the world! This semi-arid tropical region employs innovative tropical viticulture techniques, allowing for two harvests per year, producing potent Syrah and fresh Chenin Blanc with vines yielding twice annually, leading to year-round harvests. This demonstrates that quality wine can be produced outside the traditional wine-growing latitudes.

Within South America, Brazil is the "it" region for sparkling winemaking, with Pinto Bandeiro becoming the first DO exclusively for traditional-method sparkling wines outside Europe. Sparkling wines are generally made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, offering excellent value for money and putting Brazilian wine on the map. Brazilian still wines offer unique experiences, embodying the lightness, freshness, and energetic spirit distinctive of Brazil, backed by quality tested by critics and international competitions.

Brazilian wine is not just about what's in the bottle, but also about the experience. Imagine sipping a glass of sparkling Moscatel while enjoying a traditional churrasco barbecue, exploring the historic vineyards of the Vale dos Vinhedos or joining a guided tour through the São Roque wine trail just an hour away from São Paulo. The combination of Brazilian warmth and hospitality and stunning natural beauty with distinctive world-class wine is a truly unforgettable experience.

As the world of wine continues to evolve and expand, Brazilian wine industry that is still taking shape has the ability to surprise and inspire. So, the next time you're looking to expand your wine horizons, consider stepping off the beaten path and discovering the unexpected delights of Brazilian wine.

And if you need any tips, contact me to help you organise your trip.


© All images on this page are subject to copyright. 2023-2024 Nelly Ward

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