Six things you (probably) didn’t know about Brazilian wine . . .
. . . if you knew Brazil produced wine at all
When I mentioned a week or so ago I was off to Brazil you probably thought Rio, carnival, samba, caipirinhas - all the fun party stuff for which Brazil is famous but I bet you didn’t imagine I’d be spending the week tasting wine.
I mean Brazil, is hot and tropical, right? Well, turns out not all of it is. As you can see from a quick look at the map it’s a HUGE country, the biggest in south America with climates ranging from the rainforest - definitely not good for wine - to the merely ‘tropical with altitude’, the cooler vineyards in the south.
What would you expect Brazil to produce in the way of wine? Some full-bodied reds like neighbouring Argentina and Chile? They have them to be sure but Brazil’s main calling card, which accounts for half its wine production is sparkling wine. Who knew?
Brazilian bubbly is South America’s prosecco (It’s even labelled as such on the home market). Not all is made from glera, the grape that goes to make prosecco but it’s like prosecco in style only drier. Some more serious fizz is made by the champagne method too on estates such as Cave Geisse.
Only a tiny proportion of the population drink wine and most of that is what’s known as ‘traditional’ wine, i.e. wine that’s not made from vitis vinifera grapes, the grapes that are used to make most of the world’s wine commercially. (Think of it like the difference between cider made from dessert apples and ones made from cider apples.) Most is really sweet.
Despite the hot steamy climate there aren’t many whites or rosés. Most meals kick off with a red - as is often the case in red wine producing regions in Spain and Italy. The most popular red (I think, though I need to check the figures) is merlot but cabernet franc, tannat and touriga nacional also do well here.
The wine industry was pioneered by Italian families in the 19th century Lot of wineries are still family owned - pictures of the large family groups that make up the dynasties adorn the walls of wineries such as Casa Valduga which was founded in 1875
There’s some extremely sophisticated wine tourism. Leafy wine gardens with pods (Miolo), cellars where wine is aged in barrels to the sound of Gregorian chants (Valduga again) and hands-, or rather foot-on, experiences where you can pick and tread grapes (Vinicola Goes just outside São Paulo). It all helps to encourage people who are unfamiliar with wine into wine drinking.
In some regions they harvest wines in July during their winter a phenomenon known as ‘winter wines’. The theory being that summer is often wet (I can testify to that) and winters drier and warm enough to ripen grapes. Basically they trick the vines into shedding their leaves and budding again during autumn rather than spring. More to follow on this, for the geeks among you. This is a winter wine vineyard at Goes, below. No grapes, see?
I’m on holiday here for another week but am planning to post a Friday 5 on the Brazilian food scene for those of you who are paid subscribers (click here if you want to upgrade). And a fascinating cuisine it is too …
Have a good week!
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