Handover to Rio 2016 – Introducing Brazilian Wine

Brazilian wine

With the Olympic handover from London 2012 to Rio 2016 complete, and Brazilian wine going down a storm with fans at the London Games, we decided to take a look at this emerging wine region and what we can expect from Brazilian wines over the next few years.

Q. Isn’t it too humid in Brazil to make wine?

Humidity is a huge problem for winemakers as mould and mildew attack the vines and devastates grapes – and Brazil is a tropical country more famous for its rainforests, beaches and ice cold Caipirinhas than its wine.

However, Brazil is a huge country with big regional differences. In the newest wine region of Campanha, in the Pampas lands that border Uruguay in the south of Rio Grande do Sul, it is very dry with an annual rainfall of only 1200ml of rain. The climate is much more Mediterranean than tropical and humidity just isn’t a major problem.

Q. What sort of wines do you see when you are in Brazil?

The easy trap to fall into is to assume that Brazilian wines are just like Chilean and Argentinean wines because they are all South American. It’s a bit like assuming Portuguese, German and Italian wines are all alike because they are all European.

Brazil is the third-largest wine producing country on the continent but the scale of production is currently much smaller than either Chile or Argentina. Brazil has a thirsty (and growing) middle-class domestic drinking population of 20.8 million people and is an important export market for premium Chilean wines.
The most popular domestic wines are often sparkling; Chandon (of Moet et Chandon fame) are a major player producing affordable fizz for mass consumption.

Q. Is there potential for fine wines in Brazil?

Definitely. Leaving aside the domestic fizz, Campanha is starting to produce some amazing wines that put it head and shoulders above the other wine regions in the country.  The focus is on grapes such as Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional; varieties that have come over from Spanish and Portuguese immigrants to Brazil and which are really at home in a Mediterranean climate.

Campanha also has a few natural advantages. It has sufficient rainfall to mean vines can be dry farmed, and the local Alisios wind blows through the vineyards keeping the grapes dry and healthy. These factors help vine growers balance the alcohol levels in their wines naturally without the need for chaptalisation or other adjustments.

This is the Brazilian phenomenon: balanced, flavoursome, concentrated wines, at comparatively low alcohols levels that we haven’t seen in the New World for a long while. Tempranillo and Syrah at 12.5%? It makes Campanha a very exciting new wine region.

Q. Anywhere else?

The Sierra Gaucha region in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil, is the heartbeat of Brazil’s wine industry. This hilly region is one of the wettest wine producing areas in the world and not without its challenges but its results are improving all the time. The town of Garibaldi is the centre of the country’s fizz production and quality is on the rise as producers wake up to the potential of the export market. It’s an incredibly exciting region to visit at the moment and things are changing so fast.

Q. Will the World Cup and Olympics have an effect?

Almost certainly and most major UK retailers are showing an increased interest in the country’s wines. However, as the national motto - Ordem e Progresso - stretches across the starry globe on the Brazilian flag says, order and progress is the key to Brazilian wines export success.

The World Cup and Olympics provide a real opportunity to raise the profile of the country’s wines. We can’t let this interest in Brazilian wines end when England lose on penalties to Germany in the quarter-finals.

The country’s wines have a vibrant and intense style developed from waves of immigration and the energy of independence. We need to built a long-term future for them in the UK.

Juel Mahoney
9th August 2012

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