When it comes to wine, many Americans think about French wine–from Champagne to Bordeaux Blends, or perhaps Italian wine, like a refreshing Prosecco or a Spanish Cava. But now signs point to a rise in Brazilain wine.
To be sure, Brazilian wine is not new. While more nascent than other countries with ancient wine histories, Brazil has been producing wines for over a century, but it was only in the last decade that the country really started to make waves outside of the continent.
In the past ten years, the value of the Brazilian wine industry has tripled. That’s due in part to the latter half of the years, and the government’s concerted efforts to push exports to three countries in particular: the United States, United Kingdom, and China.
Despite other economic and social difficulties–or maybe partially because of them–Brazil is continuing its effort to enter into international markets, a tall order when being forced to compete against wine nations such as France and Italy.
A recent headline in the Brazilian Report postulated if Brazil, in fact, could enter international markets with success.
There are signs it may be working.
For one, Brazil’s claim to fame, sparkling wine, is seeing a boom in popularity, with sales exceeding two billion bottles a year worldwide. And while other nations produce sparkling wine, Brazil is especially suited for producing popular, dry bubbly.
Of course, perhaps the greatest barrier to Brazilian wine is simply getting people to learn about it, and all the nation has to offer.
In this article, we’ll touch upon Brazilian wine, what it is, its history, and then provide an A to Z guide so you can learn about everything you need to know to become fully acquainted with this emerging wine nation.
How long has Brazil been producing wine?
Brazil may not have been producing wine for as long as some nations, but it still has been over a century since the wine industry took hold. In fact, the country has a whole history of starts and stops.
Wine is thought to have first been brought to Brazil in 1532 by Martim Afonso de Souza, a Portuguese explorer and colonial administrator who hoped to begin planting in what was then a colony.
However, the Vitis vinifera seedlings were ill-suited for the southern soil and warm climate and did not flourish as hoped. The next attempt at producing wine in modern-day Brazil was in 1626 when Jesuits arrived in Missões and introduced some of the first vines in the Rio Grande do Sul, mostly for the intent of using wine for religious purposes.
By 1732, Portuguese immigrants were arriving but, despite the desire to plant Vitis vinifera seedlings were meant with much of the same complications of unsuitable conditions. In fact, around half a century later, there was even an order passes banning the planting of any such seeds.
It was not until 1824, as now German immigrants began to arrive, that an Italian by the name of João Batista Orsi was granted permission by Dom Pedro I to begin planting European grape varieties. Over the next few decades, other varieties, including American grapes were also planted.
What really solidified Brazil’s place as a wine nation was at the tail end of the 1800s, around 1875 when an influx of Italian immigrants propelled forth a full-fledged wine economy.
What is unique about Brazilian wines?
While this A to Z guide will give you a general idea of what it truly unique about Brazilian wines, one thing that may immediately stand out is how diverse they are.
- While Brazil is known is sparkling wines, it also produces a variety of white and red wines. And while many nations have a wide variety of grapes, Brazil, in particular, comes from a rich, diverse background of immigrants bringing in varieties from around the world.
- Brazil wines also are noted not for sophisticated aging; in fact, many of the best Brazilian wines instead are bright, playful, fruit-forward and fresh. They also tend to have high levels of acidity, and despite the warm climate, mirror some styles of Northern Italian wines.
- Finally, most Brazil wines do not add cane sugar, the way it is common to for other wines that have been sweetened. Instead, Brazilian wines are often sweetened with fruit juice.
- If nothing else, Brazilian wines embody the diversity of regions, and the nation itself
Why should I consider looking at Brazilian wines as opposed to other wines?
One reason to consider looking at Brazilian wines is simply to expose yourself to something new. Many miss out on some of the best wines simply because they do not try something they never have before.
With the sheer variety, there is little doubt that you’ll find a Brazilian wine that is to your liking. And by purchasing Brazilian wine, you’re supporting an emerging wine industry. If you like sparkling wine and have never tried Brazilian wine, that’s only yet another reason to take a look at purchasing Brazilian wine.
How do I start learning about Brazilian wine?
Learning about one wine variety is overwhelming enough, but learning about an entire nation’s wines can be even more so. For that reason, we’re giving you an easy to navigate A to Z guide to Brazilian wine to give you a general overview.
Each represents a key part of the Brazilian wine industry and will help you navigate your options.
A: Acidity, Altos Monte, Ancellotta, Aurora.
- Acidity: Brazilian wines, as a general, tend to be high in acidity and low in alcohol, making for bright and refreshing wines that naturally pair with fruit-forward profiles. The higher acidity levels also provide some punch to the country’s famous sparkling wines.
- Altos Monte: A sub-appellation of the Serra Gaúcha region. The Serra Gaúcha region accounts for ninety percent of all Brazilian wines produced and is the most well known.
- Ancellotta: This is a wine grape variety originally from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. The dark grape is most often blended to produce red Lambrusco wines.
- Aurora: Aurora, or Vinicola Aurora, is the largest and most acclaimed winery in Brazil and accounts for an impressive thirty percent of the entire market for Brazilian wines. The winery was also the first awarded ISO 9001:2008 certification in the region, which is a measure of quality. In addition, the winery is dedicated to sustainable practices and offers tours.
B: Barbera, Boscato Vinicola, Bubbly.
- Barbera: Barbera originally hails from Northern Italy and is now produced in Brazil as well. While not as refined as some other varieties, it is enjoyed young and tends to be affordable. The wine is low in tannins, high in acidity, and features dark cherry, plum, strawberry and blackberry flavors with violet, lavender, and baking spices like nutmeg and anise.
- Boscato: Boscato is a winery in the Rio Grande do Sul and known for producing mostly French varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Pinot Noir are the most popular; wines tend to be fairly well-rated and of affordable price.
- Bubbly: Bubbly, or sparkling wine, is the most popular category of wines produced in Brazil. Nearly half of the wine Brazil produces is sparkling wine and have in part helped the nation to earn over two thousand international awards and counting. Fresh, lively, with crisp acidity, Brazilian sparkling wines are well-loved.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc.
- Cabernet Sauvignon is the most grown red grape variety in Brazil and was originally introduced in the country by Portuguese settlers as early as the mid-1600s. The wine is high in acidity with a full body and often aged with a substantial oak taste. Black currant, cocoa, vanilla, and cedar accompany cherry and black currabt notes.
- Chardonnay is low tannin, mildly acidic wine with apple, pineapple, and buttery notes. Even though it is often aged, Brazil Chardonnay features brighter acidity and a fresh taste that stands out from Chardonnay around the world. Vale dos Vinhedos is among the most well-known producers of Chardonnay, which features soft peach and honey notes alongside still bright acidity.
- Chenin Blanc originally hails from the Loire Valley in France and is known as a light, refreshing white wine featuring playful fruit and floral notes and clean acidity. Honey and flowers can be detected, and Brazil produces both dry and sweet Chenin Blanc wine.
D: Don Guerino is a family-owned Brazilian winery located in the heart of Rio Grande do Sul. The winery began producing almost two decades ago and is situated about twenty-five kilometers from the hills of the Serra Gaúcha. The winery produces red, white, sparkling and rose wines and has begun exporting to other countries. Malbec, Chardonnay, Teroldego, Moscato, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rose, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc are all priced rather low.
E: Equator, Exports.
- Equator: Brazil has the challenge of being near the Equator, where heat and humidity make for poor conditions to grow wine, which explains why much of the wine is produced to the South, bordering near Uruguay and Argentina. Brazil is now being called by some the Tuscany of the Southern Hemisphere.
- Exports: Brazilian wines are being exported more in recent years, a sign of Brazil’s emergence as a wine nation. In May 2018, export sales of sparkling wine alone rose by over forty percent. The leading nations Brazil exports to includes the United Kingdom, the United States, and China.
F: Families, Farroupilha, Flavor.
- Families play a sizeable role in the production of Brazilian wine. Family-run wineries are quite common in Brazil and indicate a focus on smaller-scale production. While there are larger wineries, many Brazilian wines come from family-run businesses.
- Farroupilha is a city of about seventy thousand, situated in the Rio Grande do Sul, in the Serra Gaúcha and home to a number of Brazilian wineries. In fact, the area was first settled by Italian immigrants and is home to Vinicola Perini, Cave Antiga, Adega Chesini, and Cantina Strapazzon.
- Flavors: Brazilian wines, of course, have a wide variety of flavors, but if you had to generalize, much of the most consumed wines are effervescent, fresh and fruity, and tend to be dry, but you can easily find dessert wines as well.
G: Gewürztraminer. Gewürztraminer has been described as a more alcoholic Moscato, featuring tropical and citrus notes such as pineapple, grapefruit, and lychee. Ginger and smoky notes are also common, and the grape originates from the Alps. Intense and full-bodied, it’s suited for wine lovers but not as approachable to others.
H: Hectares, Hotel Villa Michelon, Humidity.
- Hectares are a unit of measure with one unit equal to an area of ten thousand cubic meters. In total, Brazilian wines are produced on just under ninety thousand hectares, with a total of around one thousand and one hundred unique wineries.
- Hotel Villa Michelon is a four-star Brazilian hotel near wine country or ‘Valley of the Vineyards’ and featuring a variety of cultural attractions and activities.
- Humidity can be harsh for wine production, which is why wine is mostly made away from the Equator in Brazil.
I: Italian Tradition, Italian Riesling.
- Italian Tradition is strong in Brazilian wines. Many established wine names, including Casa Valduga, rely on Italian style wines and winemaking, from a history of immigrants from Italy introducing techniques and new varieties. Italian immigrants in particular as said to have propelled Brazil to become an international exporter.
- Italian Riesling is found in Brazil, with an extra punch of bright and lively acidity. It’s quite ripe and vibrant, featuring lime, Meyer lemon, pineapple, and apricot notes both in sweet and dry varieties. Honey and citrus blossom add pleasant notes for a refreshing, celebratory wine.
J: Jesuits. Jesuit missionaries first arrived in what was then colonial Brazil and were initially endorsed by the king at the time. As early as the latter half of the 1500s through the mid-1600s, the influx of religious practices ushered in a demand for wine production and subsequently introduced new wine varieties.
L: Lees, Lidio Carraro.
- Lees refers to the dead yeast that is leftover after fermentation but is actually sometimes added to sparkling wine and white wines, including in Brazil, to add both texture and flavor.
- Lidio Carraro is a boutique winery that is family-owned and passed down through five generations of Italian immigrants. The emphasis is on high quality, terroir focused wines and has won acclaim. The winery first earned international recognition for its exports to Europe in 2005. By 2011, two of their wines had earned a rating of over 90 out a perfect 100 points. Several of their wines were used as official Brazilian wines for the 2016 Olympics. They produce a variety of red, white, and sparkling wines.
M: Malvasia, Merlot, Monte Bello, Muscat.
- Malvasia is a grape variety originally from the Mediterranean but now also grown in Italy and Brazil, as well as Slovenia, Croatia, among others. It’s actually among Italy’s most widely grown grapes, and though less popular in Brazil, produces light wines with fruity aromas, both dry and sweet and perfectly paired with fresh acidity.
- Merlot is one of the most produced grape varieties in the world and produces a red wine featuring black cherry, raspberry and plum flavor notes with touches of cedar, vanilla, and clove. Brazilian Merlot is unique in that it is barrel or oak-aged and consider a compromise of both Old and New World styles.
- Monte Bello is one of the prominent sub-regions of wineries across Brazil. Ridge Vineyards located here, near the Santa Cruz mountains and features not only a tourist destination but also single variety vineyards noted especially for Zinfandel but also Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Muscat, also referred to as Muscato, features sweet, ripe fruit flavors of Meyer lemon, mandarin oranges, pear and honeysuckle, and blossoms. Sparling, black, pink, still and white varieties can all be made. Originally Italian, this is a popular option for sparkling wine from Brazil and is pleasing with fresh acidity.
O: One Hundred Years. In 2013, Brazil celebrated a century of producing sparkling wine.
P: Pinot Bandeira, Pinot Grigo, Pinot Noir, Prosecco.
- Pinot Bandeira is one of the well-known sub-regions of Rio Grande do Sul, where wine is mostly produced in Brazil. It’s quite small, with a population under three thousand but home to a number of wineries, including Cave Geisse, Vinicola Valmarino, and Vinicola Don Giovanni.
- Pinot Grigo is a white wine, originally Italian, that is often described as bright, zesty, and pleasantly acidic, not unlike lemonade. Lemon, limes, green apples provide ripe, light flavors. In Brazil, it is popular to combine Pinot Grigo with Riesling for a refreshing sparkling wine.
- Pinot Noir is most associated with Burgundy, France but grown throughout the world, including Brazil. Pinot Noir produces red wine and is one of the oldest and most planted in the world (around one thousand years Cabernet Sauvignon’s senior). Cherries, strawberries, raspberries and earthy notes dominate a perfumed wine.
- Prosecco is a bright bubbly, originally Italian that most commonly ranges from Brut to Dry and features pronounced acidity, green apple, honeydew melon, pear, and honeysuckle. Vinicola Garibaldi is one example of a producer of Brazilian Proseco.
R: Riesling, Rio Grande de Sul.
- Riesling is most commonly produced in the Italian tradition and is often combined with other wines as well. Following a traditional method, Riesling in Brazil will present as especially bright and fresh in acidity.
- Rio Grande de Sul borders Argentina and Uruguay and accounts for the production of ninety percent of the wine.
T: Tannat, Tempranillo.
- Tannat is a red wine, originally from France, but has recently gained popularity in Uruguay and now neighboring Brazil. In Brazil, Tannat presents with a deep purple hue and features dark fruit with leathery and perfumed notes. Spices, noticeably tannins, and a medium to full body is common.
- Tempranillo, though not widely produced in Brazil, is another example of the wide variety of Brazilian wines. It’s mostly known as a Spanish wine (around eighty percent of all Tempranillo wine is produced in Spain) and noted for a jam like cherry plum and tomato notes and touches of cedar, leather tobacco, and vanilla with medium tannins.
U: United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay. All of these countries play some role in the Brazilian wine industry. The United Kingdom and the United States are two of the three primary recipients of exports. Uruguay borders Brazil and produces wines of its own, both influencing and providing competition.
V: Vinicola Guaspari, Vigoner, Vinicola Salton.
- Vinícola Guaspari is a Brazilian winery located in Espírito Santo do Pinhal of São Paulo. They specialize in Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Vigoner.
- Vigoner is a fruity white wine, with medium body and lower acidity with tangerine, peach, and mango flavors. It is fairly uncommon in Brazil and is mostly produced in France and Australia. It is commonly unoaked in Brazil.
- Vinicola Salton is an established winery in Brazil located in Serra Gaucha which produces a variety of wines, including Merlot, Muscat, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tannat.
W: Wind. Brazil is known for fruit-forward, bright, and lighter wines, which is due in part to temperatures and reliable winds, which support both consistent and healthy vineyards.
Do you have suggestions for some of the best Brazilan wines?
Now that we’ve given you an A to Z guide as to what to generally expect when it comes to Brazilian wines, here are a few examples of bottles you might want to try.
- Aurora Millésime Cabernet Sauvignon: From an esteemed winery comes Cabernet Sauvignon with signature ruby and violet hues, fresh berries and deeper cocoa with structure but the acidity from the region.
- Aurora Aurora Pinto Bandeira Sparkling Wine: A bright sparkling wine that features the fresh ripe flavors of the region, this sparkling option was produced using a traditional method with notes of sweet apricots, toasted almonds, orange, and lemon.
- Boscato Gran Cave Merlot: Another established winery, this wine by Boscato is highly affordable but was acclaimed in Vivino’s 2018 Wine Style Awards for the best Brazilian Merlot for its 2008 Vintage and the 2012 rendition was among the top five percent of Brazilian wines. It’s fruit-forward, with pleasing and smooth strawberry notes and noticeable sweetness and depth.
- Lidio Carraro Singular Tempranillo: From a boutique, Brazilian winery comes intense and varied flavors, especially dried fruits like raisins and figs. Almond, coffee and chocolate liqueur add depth, with a bright and long finish.
- Lidio Carraro Agnus Tannat: Another boutique Brazilian wine based upon the terroir and local climate, this Tannat features dark rich flavors including dark berries, licorice, cocoa, and coffee. Structured with tannins and nicely balanced, blackberry, cinnamon, and leather are common undertones.