From a country that exports the most star soccer players and sets the bar for lavish Carnival celebrations the world over, it’s easy to overlook Brazil as a major wine producer.
Encompassing nearly 2,500-miles along Brazil’s eastern border, 6 main wine regions contain nearly 24,800 acres of 150 well established wineries as well as 1,100 small farm wineries each averaging 5 vineyard acres.
Now the 5th largest in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the fastest growing markets in the world, Brazil is surprisingly not a New World producer like New Zealand or Chile. It was Father Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz, a Jesuit missionary assisted by the native Guarani community who successfully cultivated vines in Rio Grande do Sul in 1626. The country’s first guided tasting a bit later in 1640 was recorded in 1st Proceedings of the Chamber of São Paulo establishing basic standards of quality.
Local wine making continued over the ensuing centuries but quality really improved starting in 1875 with the arrival of Italian immigrants. It wasn’t until 1928 that the Sindicato do Vinho was established to promote consistent quality standards. Within 10 years, 26 vineyard cooperatives were established, some of which are still in existence today, enabling small producers to competitively offer their unique micro terrior vintages.
The following wines, all from the Serra Gaucha, Brazil’s leading region representing 85% of the entire country’s production, benefit from basaltic soil, humid climate, and mild nights. Each wine has a distinctive personality in the bottle accompanied by labeling that’s notably bright and lively reflecting the culture’s playful vibe rather than a revered adherence to tradition:
Cave Geisse Blanc de Blanc 2015 – Produced by Familia Geisse, This 100% Chardonnay from Pinto Bandeira has a light yellow-green hue in the glass. Elegant and complex on the nose, it showcases yeasty aromas of white flowers and citrus fruits like pineapple and lemon. A chaulky minerality with a lively effervescence tempers this brut’s fruitiness. Rich, velvety, and pungent mouthfeel with a refreshing palate cleansing finish.
Lidio Carraro Da’divas Chardonnay 2014 – Unoaked, this Chardonnay exudes well balanced minerality with an effervescent zingy citrus and hints of punch-like fruit on the nose. A deep sophisticated range of flavors blossom from the unrestrained grapes into exceptional complexity combined with even minerality accentuates the attributes of many cheeses. Sharp yet balanced acidity sets the stage for a sparkling spicy personality.
Macaw Tannat 2015 – Located in the mountainous Vale Trentino sub-region at an altitude of 2287 feet, grapes are manually selected and fermented using cultured yeast for 7 days in stainless steel vats. A portion is then matured in 100% new Hungarian oak. This 100% Tannat is violet with hints of ruby. Subtle aromas of chocolate and vanilla lead the palate with an intense blackberry flavor buttressed by firm tannins. A bright unencumbered nose with straightforward fruit features black raspberry with a warm light tropical twist. On the palate a richer black currant unfolds with a rugged yet sweet tinged fruitiness similar to a Lambrusco although with not as biting of a finish.
Miolo Cuvee Guiseppe Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Blend 2013 – The Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes used in this blend were selected from the best parcels of the Miolo family vineyards in Vale dos Vinhedos grown in rocky-clay soil. Hand picked, destemmed, selected, and transferred to the fermentation tanks, maceration occurs in stainless steel tanks with a simultaneous alcoholic fermentation. Homogenized with skins 6 times a day for a slow selective extraction of color & tannins, the wine is then matured in new French oak for 1 year before blending and bottling.
An intense ruby red hue with a high aromatic intensity, you get a pronounced jaminess on the nose with lively fruit poking through even after being oak aged. Definitive bramble berry with oaky sweetness lingers long on the palate. A delicate tannic structure buttressed by a steady minerality enlivens everything from hamburgers to Thai dishes and of course churrasco, Brazil’s iconic ember-grilled steak.
Landscape & grape photos courtesy of Silvia Tonon. Label photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky. Coverage made possible by participating in a sponsored tasting.