By Nathan M. Walters, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Most people don’t think about the fact that in conventional modern wine making practices there is an incredible amount of chemicals used. This is changing though, as more people are seeking out wines that limit the introduction of chemicals – and in so doing are discovering the true flavor of the terroir (loosely translated as earth).
Unfortunately, in Brazil, a nascent wine-consuming market (though a fast-rising producer), as in other countries, the genuine flavor of the terroir is being foregone in favor of processed wines.
But as more consumers look for quality organic wines, more producers, throughout the world, are eschewing chemical and technological advances and focusing on classic growth and production methods to produce organic, biodynamic, and natural wines teeming with genuine flavor.
Even domestic producers are focusing on making delicious natural Brazilian wines. Including Lizete Vicari, who, with her family, produces celebrated wines at her family farm in Rio Grande do Sul.
In Rio, and throughout Brazil, the change is happening through the assistance of domestic wine producers like Vicari, but also with the help local restaurants and concerned importers.
For the past two years Rio-based wine importer Marco London, co-founder of Bionysos, Natural Wines Network, has been working with his business associate Nicolas Amarenco (based in France) to raise awareness in the Brazilian market about the benefits of natural wines.
“If more people had a better understanding of the chemicals used in the conventional wine-making process they would be shocked. Most people think all wine is natural. The reality is quite different.”
Organic wine is a term that is used loosely to describe wines that use organic grapes, it does not refer to the introduction of chemicals (yeast, sulfur dioxide) in the production of wine.
Biodynamic wines also use organic grapes and limit the amount of chemicals (particularly sulfur dioxide) in the production process. Natural wine, as the name suggests, uses organic grapes and minimal, if any, chemicals in the production process.
Local chefs and restaurant industry professionals focused on using quality organic products in their kitchen are one of the main driving forces behind the spread of information about wine. London has been pleased with the growing interests of chefs in the city, but also sees the need for correcting myths about natural wine.
“Many people think, ‘Organic wine? More expensive and doesn’t taste as good.’ There are plenty of stereotypes about organic, natural, and biodynamic wine. Problem is, most people will not even consider the product as a result.”
In 2010, wine consumption in Brazil was a paltry three percent of total alcohol consumption. The most important factor is probably Brazil’s climate, a bit sultry to enjoy a glass of red wine. Second, only recently has the domestic economic situation (e.g., eased import rules, rising middle class) started to support a thriving wine market in the country.
“Brazil is a beer drinking country, but people are starting to open up to different options, including wine,” mentions London. “At the same time, people are getting more interested in the real taste of wine. In Brazil, wine is status issue, and the marketing power behind conventional wines plays on that. Now there are more consumers and collectors concerned with taste of wine, not with the label on their neighbor’s bottle.”