By Anna Fitzpatrick, Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – It might have beaches, beauties and Carnival celebrations that make the world look on in envy, but as a wine-growing nation, Brazil is just emerging. Many may be surprised to know that the country boasts over 400 wineries though, virtually all of them in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, near the Uruguayan border. Now as Brazil’s winter months arrive, some find themselves looking at wine options, and what Brazilian winemakers have to offer.
While neighbors Chile and Argentina are famed for their full bodied reds, Brazil’s sparkling wines have recently been making bubbles in the wine world. The volumes of sales of sparkling wine jumped by 85.9 percent in the first quarter of 2009, with 1.3 million liters being sold. During the first third of 2011 Brazilian wine exports totaled over $7 million, being exported to over twenty countries.
It is not just quantities being produced that signal a positive outlook for the Brazilian Wine Industry but the growing middle class in the country means that tastes are changing and markets growing. Indeed Moët & Chadon first saw the potential for Brazilian sparkling wine in the early 1970s when they started producing for the domestic market.
Recently, thanks to a campaign by Wines of Brazil, twenty-two Brazilian wines are featured on the menus of Brazilian steakhouses Fogo de Chão and Plataforma, in the United States. Wines of Brazil, a product of the Brazilian Wine Institute (Ibravin), was created In 1998 gathering the main entities in the production chain of grape and wine.
The heat and humidity that engulfs most of the country means that the majority of Brazilian wine is produced in the South of the country where seasonal changes are more pronounced. In particular Vale dos Vinhedos in Rio Grande do Sul which is becoming world recognized as a wine producing region. It is located in Serra Gaúcha which at around 29 degrees south latitude is almost parallel to Argentina’s famous wine growing region Mendoza.
Like Mendoza it was immigration to the area, especially of Italian families that brought wine growing to the region. Many of the wineries putting Brazil on the map today are families of Italian descent.
Casa Valduga is a family run producer of sparkling wines. The Italian family first arrived in 1875 and base their sparkling wines on the French process or the champenoise method of production, unusual in the area.
The vineyard also opens up for tastings and tourists with an on-site shop and restaurant, the first to place to open their doors in Brazil. The Gran Reserva Extra Brut was awarded the 2009 Best National Sparkling at the annual Expovinis trade fair, held in São Paulo.
Miolo is another big Italian wine producing family with a history in Brazil dating back in 1897, with an ambitious expansion plan to be producing 12 million liters of wine by 2012. With a strong focus on technology both in the processes employed and the equipment used, in 2003 the company hired French winemaker Michel Rolland to oversee the winemaking.
Such has been the expansion of the company that they have successfully increased their exports by 17 percent in 2010 and are present in thurty countries. They count the Buddha Bar in London and the CN Tower in Toronto as stockists.
A more unusual approach to wine making in Brazil comes from Portuguese company Dão Sul. The company has a wine project in Brazil which started in 2002. Rather than producing in the South like most of the wine from Brazil, this project is based in Bahia on the dry plains of the São Francisco Valley.
Here the 300 days a year of sunshine that shines twelve hours a day mean that harvesting can take place at any time as the vines never stop producing. The wines being produced here are being termed “new latitude” wines, those produced outside the traditional geographical heartlands of wine country.