By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Since 2014 the WineHouse in Rio de Janeiro has been focusing on Brazilian wines, and offering a sophisticated yet accessible nook on the bustling Botafogo restaurant scene. British expatriate Dominic Parry, and his Carioca wife Selene, opened the cozy wine bar without much experience in the industry, but they knew it was a winning formula and the response has proved them right.
Mr. Parry explains, “Neither of us has much of a professional background in wine, but we both have always had a keen interest. We’re actually strangely proud of our lack of formal qualifications, as we hope it helps us reach like minded people who have always hated the formality often attached to wine consumption.”
Brazil and Rio de Janeiro is mostly considered beer country with its tropical hot summers and mild winters, but the wine market continues to gain ground, achieving a growth of 12.15 percent in 2014, although in 2013 there was a decrease of 3.22 percent. According to research provided by Fine Wines, from 2007 to 2014 there has been 93.45 percent growth, an average of 13.35 percent per year.
Although traditionally, Brazilian wine has not been valued as much as imports, research from the Brazilian Wine Institute Ibravin (Instituto Brasileiro do Vinho) shows ‘Only three out of ten consumers feel that there is still a big difference in the quality of wines in favor of imports.’
Helping to change perception, Parry describes the WineHouse’s focus, “From day one we’ve always insisted on promoting Brazilian wines. After all, we are in Brazil and over the last decade or so the wine industry here has really picked up in terms of quality and also availability.”
“We have around twenty Brazilian wines, mostly from the Rio Grande do Sul state out of a total of around sixty at any time on the wine list, and they sell really well!” Parry adds, “Because a lot of places that stock wine don’t bother to do their homework on local wines and concentrate on the sure bets of Chilean and Argentinian wines, it’s still a novelty even for Brazilians to enjoy decent Brazilian wines.”
“For example, the best seller at the moment is a Shiraz from Minas Gerais. A lot of people don’t even know Minas produces wine, so when they see something like that it really grabs their attention, and when they then taste it and realize that it’s better than the other South American Shiraz’s they’ve been drinking for the same price, they end up very satisfied indeed.”
As anyone who has tried it knows, opening a small business in Rio de Janeiro can be harrowing, with added bureaucracy nick-named the ‘Brazil Cost’, not to mention a volatile economy and recession, it is not for amateurs. Yet luckily the team at WineHouse has not had the worst of times. “We found that opening the bar was nowhere near as difficult and stressful as people had warned us. We had some major problems with the construction work, but that was kind of expected.” explains Parry.
Adding, “A few people had talked to us about how they didn’t know if Rio was the kind of place for a wine bar and that it seemed a big risk, but we were pleasantly surprised straight from the off – new customers, mostly from Botafogo told us how the area had always needed a wine bar, and they had been anxiously waiting for us to open.”
In terms of the future, Parry tells, “Our main aim this year is to bring in even more Brazilian wine and to try to focus on small producers, natural, organic wines. We’ll be going to the ‘Feira de Vinhos Naturebas’ in São Paulo at the end of next month so we should be able to find some good stuff there!”
Rua Paulo Barreto, 25 loja E, Botafogo – Rio de Janeiro, RJ
Phone: +55 21 3264-4101
Monday to Thursday from 5PM – Midnight, Friday to Saturday from 5PM – 1AM