Introduction to Brazilian wine

By: WineMarketDate: 02/07/2014

Planalto Catarinense, Campos de Cima da Serra, Serra Gaucha, Serra do Sudeste, Campanha and Vale do Sao Francisco.

Sound familiar? Maybe not. But these six regions are actually the major wine growing areas of Brazil. Yes, the land where soccer is religion, and really small bikinis are the norm, also produces wine. Sure, the weather might seem more appropriate for a caipirinha cocktail rather than a cabernet, but that’s not stopping an eager wine drinking public, and the increasing number of winemakers servicing it.

While the World Cup rages around Brazil, spare a thought for all the celebratory wines that are being drunk as fans congratulate and commiserate their teams. While most stadiums aren’t close to wine regions, the official FIFA World Cup venues at Cuitiba and Porto Alegre are proximate to winemaking hotspots, just don’t expect too much local wine during some of the more nail-biting encounters.

Brazil has over 1100 wineries at last count, though most are considered small in the context of international wine production. The general feel for wine produced in Brazil can be generalised to ‘white wines that are fresh and fruity’ and ‘red wines that are medium bodied and easy drinking’, though that is kind of simplifying things.

Varieties found in Brazil tend to the traditional ‘noble varieties’ like Riesling, Moscato, Chardonnay and Merlot, though Isabella, a variety widely planted in Brazil in the late 1800s, has been popular, even though it is known for its ‘foxy character’ (think farmyard smells). Sparkling wine has, however, been the big mover and shaker, with the emphatic seal of approval being the long term wine production coming from Chandon (Chandon Brasil a subsidiary of Moet & Chandon in Champagne), who established vineyards and a winery in 1973 in Brazil.

Another surprise to many is that the people of Brazil have a long history of producing wine, with the first vines brought into the country by Portuguese colonists in the mid 1500s. Though the early plantings were largely unsuccessful, persistence paid off, and by the arrival of Italian immigrants in 1875, there were increases in plantings, a burgeoning industry, and even some critical acclaim for wines produced from varied growing areas in Brazil.

That being said, Brazillian wine still has some issues. Due to Brazil’s proximity to the equator, plantings outside of the cooler south struggle to produce wines of quality. Mostly limited to growing areas close to Argentina and Uruguay, hilly and higher locations have become the best places to grow quality grapes for table wines. So while beaches, tropical weather and sweaty dance floors might be the norm for images of Brazil, spare a thought for the increasingly interesting wine industry, and the success of the emerging wines.

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