South America’s largest and DiduRusso is a Brazilian author and wine expert who says that Brazil’s wines, on average, are “fruitier and more fresh” due to its rainier climate.
Brazilian wine is difficult to categorize, whether it be in terms of style or other factors. Brazil has no native grapes. Its wine industry is shaped almost exclusively by immigrants and foreign influence. American and hybrid grapes dominate Brazil’s wine industry. However, producers also work with a variety of Vitis vinifera varieties, including international grapes such as Chardonnay and Merlot, Italian grapes like Teroldego, Barbera, and Portuguese varieties such as Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Nacional.
The grapes arrived in Brazil with waves of immigrants, beginning with the Portuguese, who first settled in Brazil in 1532. The wine was not produced until 1551, when Martim Afonso De Sousa, an explorer from Portugal, planted the first vines. The first successful viticulture was not realized until 1808, when the Portuguese royalty fled to Brazil to escape the French invasion. In the 1870s, a large wave of Italian immigrants arrived in Brazil and increased wine production.
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In the 1970s, the arrival of multinational companies such as Moet & Chandon and others marked the beginnings of modernization in Brazil’s wine sector. “Chandon introduced a lot of expertise, qualified technicians, and large-scale equipment, particularly for sparkling wines,” Rogerio Dardeau, a Professor at the Brazilian Sommeliers’ Association Rio de Janeiro and author of Gente, Lugares e Vinhos do Brasil. “I believe Chandon contributed to the viticulture in southern Brazil. It was not a major contribution. “Since the 1960s, we have had high-quality technical schools for viticulture, enology, and winemaking.”
Today, Brazilian producers (which number approximately 1,100) are producing more and better quality wines. Thiago Mendes is a Master of Wine candidate and director of Eno Cultura in Sao Paulo. Today, the wines have a brilliant acidity and good underlying fruit, even though some can be oaky. Some wines are quite fruity, but they can have a savory, herbaceous taste. This is more European than Argentinean or Chilean wine.
Production is increasing. According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, Brazil produced 3.2 million hectoliters of wines in 2022. This is a nine-percent increase from the previous years. Over $2.3 million worth of this wine was exported to America.
Brazil’s wine industry, which has produced wine for over 500 years, is still defining itself. It could be a positive thing. The wine industry is still forming and can surprise, delight, or inspire. Alejandro Cardozo is the winemaker for EBV Urban Winery. “Brazil’s a wonderful country,” he says. The wines of Brazil have such wide varieties and options that there is no other country with as many choices for wine, regions, and cultivars.
Wine is produced throughout Brazil, but most is made in the cooler, drier southern regions. Photo courtesy of Wines of Brazil.
Key Wine Regions
The wine-growing regions of Brazil, which range from five degrees north latitude to 33 degrees south latitude (the latter is similar to Mendoza in Argentina), are divided into six official regions. These include Sao Francisco (which provides for smaller subregions), Serra da Mantiqueira (which contains Santa Catarina), Serra Gaucha (which houses Serra do Sudeste), and Campanha Gaucha. However, much of the wine production in Brazil occurs outside these boundaries. Brazil’s southernmost region is where most of the wine is produced. This includes all of the official areas. However, in Brazil’s northern and central regions, the weather conditions are not conducive to wine production.
Due to its cooler and drier climate, the vast majority of wine is produced in the south. Rio Grande do Sul is home to some of the most renowned vineyards and wine regions in Brazil. The area Serra Gaucha boasts a hilly terrain that helps drain the 51.33 inches of rain it receives each year. Serra Gaucha hosts Brazil’s first DO Vale dos Vinhedos and sparkling wine DO Pinto Bandeira. “An appellation with incredible terroir” for sparkling wines is located at 700-900 meter altitudes, says Mika Bulmash. Serra Gaucha has some of Brazil’s best-known producers, like Salton Estrelas do Brazil and Don Giovanni.
Santa Catarina is located just north of Rio Grande do Sul, on a plateau that allows Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs to shine. Mendes says that Santa Catarina wines are more delicate. The fruit tastes like it comes from a cool climate. The grapes are very fresh and have a high acidity. However, the edge has been well integrated. Some producers also grow Italian varieties, such as Sangiovese Trebbiano and Nebbiolo. Mendes adds, “They are romantic and quite expressive.”
The Growing Movement Behind ‘Long Charmat’ Sparkling Wine
In Italy, Brazil, and beyond, winemakers are leaving Charmat-method bubbly on the lees for longer periods in an effort to make more complex and robust wines.
In the majority of central Brazil (which includes states such as Minas Gerais and Goias and, by some accounts, Sao Paulo), grape juice and table wines made from non vinifera types are produced. Winter viticulture is used by growers in central Brazil and the Serra da Mantiqueira region to harvest grapes during the cooler and drier winter months. Julio Cesar Kunz is a wine educator and president of the Brazilian Sommeliers Association‘s Rio Grande do Sul Section. It is thought that this method will shorten the lifespan of a vine. Russo says that stress will reduce the life expectancy of vines, but how much is still unknown.
Vale do Sao Francisco is the region where most of the wine produced in Northern Brazil comes from. This area tends to receive less rain than Southern Brazil. Some vignerons use tropical viticulture in this region to grow vines that are able to cope with the semi-arid climate. Kunz says that vines can produce twice as much per plant each year, which allows for daily harvests all year round. Although there is still much to be learned in this area, you can already enjoy the powerful Syrah and the exquisite, fresh Chenin Blanc.
Brazil is best known for its sparkling wine, but wines made from hybrid and international varieties make up a significant share of the country’s wine production. Photo courtesy of Júlio César Kunz.
Key Grape Variety and Styles
Brazil’s sparkling wine is best known. Bulmash says that Brazil’s sparkling wines are its strength. Brazil is the “it” region in South America for sparkling wines. Pinto Bandeiro was the first DO outside Europe to produce traditional method sparkling wines exclusively. These wines are made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Welschriesling. Riesling Italiano, a variety of Welschriesling that is second most planted in Brazil, can also be used. Mario Geisse is a Chilean who came to Brazil in 1976 to work at Moet & Chandon and then three years later opened his winery, Familia Geisse. He’s considered a pioneer of the region. Bulmash says that his consulting work helped improve the methods and standards for quality in the wine industry.
Brazilian winemakers produce tank-method wines outside the boundaries of the DO traditional method. Mendes says that sparkling wines, particularly those made by way, have a fruity, fresh, and clean taste. “[They] are really accessible. Prices are lower than Prosecco, and the wines are made from Glera Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They are very good quality, especially in Brazil. The majority of them are dry.