The Vancouver International Wine Festival in 2021 host countries were slated to be from South America. One of the countries, Brasil, is one that I have heard makes wine, but never had a chance to try. With COVID, I understand why VanWineFest cancelled the 2021 Festival, but my interest in finding out about Brasilian wine did not diminish.
Fortunately, Vinexpo New York recently held a seminar on the sparkling wines of Brasil (or Brazil as others spell it). I signed up and enjoyed learning more about their wine making history. The speaker for this seminar was Maurício Roloff, a Brazilian journalist and wine educator that has been covering this industry over the last 15 years. Here are his remarks about the Brasilian wine industry.
Mauricio and His Discussion of Brasilian Sparkling Wine
Mauricio noted that the quality of Brasilian wine has grown tremendously over the last 20 years with modernization and competition from wines imported into Brasil. What could Brasil offer to keep interest in their wines locally and expand them globally? Brasil like other countries has been stereotyped. For Brasil, people think of beaches, dance, parties, and fun. How can they bring the Brasilian mood into their wines? Into a taste, a smell, a sip?
For Brasil, they can offer high quality wines, in many styles that show a celebratory mood, and that is best shown by sparkling wines! Brasil has been producing wines for more than 100 years but few people knew that they made sparkling wines. So the Brasilian wine makers can bring youthfulness to the world. One thing they say, “Experience is good, but youth is sparkling”. Tradition is important but to show a fun, easy going lifestyle, the youth of Brasilian sparkling wines is key.
Brasilian wines are produced in two main regions, one north and one south in Brasil. The most important wine region is Serra Gaúcha in the south of Brasil. It is where 90% of all wine is produced. The region is similar in geography and climate to Northern Italy. It has mountain and hill topography that is good for drainage, with elevations between 400-800m asl. This help control the tropical heat of Brasil. The soils are basaltic and that offers minerality to wines. This region also has the longest tradition of wine making with Italian immigrants moving to the region in 1875.
The 1990s show a major modernisation in Brasil, as mentioned to complete with the international wine industry and to maintain sales of their wines within Brasil. Modernization also included vineyards being upgraded from Vitis Labrusca to Vitis Vinifera grapes. For sparkling wines they grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape. Between 1996 and 2015 Chardonnay vines increased by 300% and Pinot Noir by 550%. Brasil could make many types of still wines, but they decided to dedicate these grapes to sparkling wines.
Some of the wines are made in a Prosecco style like the Amaze Sparkling Wine Brut Chardonnay made by Cooperativa Vinicola Garibaldi. Mauricio noted that this wine is fresh, fruity, high acid and easy to drink. It sells for US$15 in the USA. But there are also other styles of sparkling wine. Another example of a Cava style is the Miolo Cuvee Brut made by the Miolo Wine Group. This sparkling wine is made with 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir in the traditional method with 12 months bottle age. Drier than the Amaze sparkling wine. It has a more complex note, but again has fresh flavours, high acidity and good drinkability. Mauricio noted that this sparkler is a good pairing for BBQ. Again the average price for this wine in the USA is US$15.
Brasil is exporting their sparkling wines. 60% of these wines are exported to the USA, China receives 10%, and France purchases between 3-5%. It is interesting with the quality of sparkling wines in France that they would be the 3rd largest importer of sparkling wines from Brasil.
As mentioned Brasil makes different styles, a diversity of styles. One style of wine is made with the Moscato grape to make a sweet sparkling wine. They also produce sparkling Rosé wines, approximately 15% of all their sparkling wines. This is in addition to the Prosecco and Cava styles previously mentioned. Brasil has the freedom to produce sparkling wines in various styles. They are not restriction by past structures, rules and regulations.
A third wine that Mauricio talked about is a new trendy style in Brasil, that also excited me when I heard about it. The wine was Casa Valduga Sur Lie from the Casa Valduga Winery. Made with 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir grapes, in the traditional method with 30 months of bottle ageing minimum. The very interesting thing about this sparkling wine is that there is no disgorgement, no removing of the lees and adding tirage before adding a cork. So you can taste the wine just as it is sold, but you could also leave it in your wine storage at home and let the wine further develop on the lees. That would be very interesting. Buy several bottles then open one a year and determine how that wine has changed over each year. Mauricio noted that this wine is dry, creamy, structured with high acidity. Again another great price for this wine at US$15 in the USA.
Finally Mauricio noted that Brasil, like other countries, tries to precisely defined their GI (Geographical Indication) regions and DO (Denomination of Origin). The Serra Gaúcha region contains five sub appellations (GIs): Vale dos Vinhedos, Pinto Bandeira, Altos Montes, Farroupilha, and Monte Belo. Their one DO is Vale dos Vinhedos. 3 of the GI’s specialize in making sparkling wine.
I enjoyed hearing about the history of Brasilian wine and their specialization in sparkling wine. I look forward to VanWineFest 2022 and hope that it will have the wines of Brasil and South America. All pictures included in my article come from the presentation by Mauricio and Vinexpo New York.