The wines of Brazil (or Brasil) are fairly new to me and that probably means they are fairly new to many of you. My frame of reference for Brazilian wine was forged on two premises: first, that they have been difficult for me to get my hands on. Two, when I was in Uruguay, many people spoke about how Brazil (the fifth largest wine producer in the Southern Hemi) was a great wine market for them. The countries are neighbors, so that makes sense, but it gave the the impression that wine was a big part of life for the people of Brazil.
That the wines were hard to find was a puzzler. I’d been offered some bottles previously, but they didn’t make it to me because a warehouse flooded and killed them in transit. This time a friend, and our host for Wine Pairing Weekend, Susannah Gold of Avvinare, sent me a bottle to try as a sample for this experience.
I’m curious to learn more about the exportation of Brazilian wines and if you are too, I suggest joining our Wine Pairing Weekend chat, this Saturday, September 14th at 10am central. It’s on Twitter, detectable with our hashtag #WinePW.
A few basics, from Wines of Brazil
Brazil boasts six main main regions: Serra Gaúcha, Serra do Sudeste, Campanha, Campos de Cima da Serra, Planalto Catarinense and the Vale do São Francisco. According to our host, there are also a handful of emerging wine regions to watch. Speaking of our host, you have to check out this great picture on Avvinare: “Bento Gonçalves, in Rio Grande do Sul, which is really the center of the country’s wine industry. To go into the town, you have to drive into a wine barrel. You get the idea.”
The bottle I tried was from Familia Salton. Founded by a family of Italian immigrants over 100 years ago, the winery is held by the fourth generation of Saltons. Their vineyards are located Serra Gaucha and Campanha and they also source grapes from Serra do Sudeste and Campos de Cima da Serra.
They make an impressive number of products including still and sparkling wine, juice, spirits and even tea that includes grapes on other natural flavors. My bottle was a sparkling rosé, one of more than 20 bubblies in the winery’s online portfolio. This wine was super fragrant and had an abundance of floral and melon flavors.
Composed of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this wine would be great with grilled fish, and perhaps a briny vinaigrette on super fresh greens. I found this tempting recipe for Grilled Whole Fish With Molho à Campanha (Brazilian Pico de Gallo) which would line up nicely. Bonus: includes a video on how to grill a whole fish.
One bottle does not an expert make, and lately I’ve been reading (mostly on Twitter) that wine writers without expertise are flooding the market. I don’t personally believe that one necessarily has to be an expert to write about anything, rather one must be a curious learner willing to soak up the story and get the facts right to ‘fill in’ for their reader, a person that presumably isn’t an expert on the subject either.
The writer needs to learn first (and get the facts right, of course) but part of the appeal is a sense that the writer was part of an unfolding experience that is artfully retold, for the reader’s enjoyment. Writing about this bottle made me consider this. How can I help my readers to get know a wine that I’m just getting to know myself?
(PS, I included Brazilian sparking wine in a story for USA Today, as an element of a roundup, so it’s not really just one bottle that passed my lips!)
So, here’s my perspective as wine writer on how to get to know more about a wine region based on one bottle:
Taste it. If you can, taste it over a couple of days to get a feel for how the flavors develop. This bottle wasn’t able to stretch and maintain integrity.
Taste it with food. Many (most?) winemakers will say that they create their wine to be “eaten”. Many wines are best with flavors from their local origin, yet they still have such balance that they are harmonious with many flavors. This interplay makes for a learning experience. Think like an eater!
Read up. Many wine regions have unified marketing organizations that offer super-robust websites. (See below for Wines of Brasil.) These almost always have maps, terroir details, variety information, producer directories and historical information.
Visit the producer’s website for specifics. If you are lucky, the website will have a tech sheet. My guess is that consumers don’t pay much attention to tech sheets, but they can have valuable information beyond what’s on the label.
Share with a friend. Everyone tastes differently. It happens every time: someone in a group will say something like, I totally get honeydew, anyone else get honeydew? And suddenly, the glass blooms with melon. While some would argue that this is influence and would taint a blind tasting and such, this is a way to enjoy wine with a group.
What makes Brazilian sparkling wine a good candidate for an exploratory tasting? It’s definitely in a cool discovery zone for many North American wine drinkers, likely because there isn’t much of it on the shelf, at least not where I shop.
Still, the wine industry in Brazil is multi-faceted and makes for interesting grounds. According to Wines of Brazil: “There are approximately 150 wineries producing fine wines around the country. The Brazilian wine industry also comprises approximately 1,100 other wineries, mainly located on small farms (an average of two hectares per family), dedicated to the production of table and handcrafted wines. The area of vineyards covered with table and vitis vinefera varieties in the country amounts to approximately 89,000 hectares located from north to south.”
Wine Pairing Weekend
For inspiration, check out these pairings and deep dives by the other Wine Pairing Weekend writers. And don’t forget to join our chat on September 14, 2019 at 10am central.
David of Cooking Chat will be pairing “Brazilian Beans, Greens and Bacon with Sparkling Wine“
Pinny of Chinese Food and Wine Pairing will be serving “Miolo Alisios Pinot Grigio/Riesling and Raw Ahi Tuna 3 Ways“
Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm will be adding “Enjoying Indian Summer with Alma Sparkling Brut from Brazil“
Cynthia and Pierre of Traveling Wine Profs will be sharing “Friends, Seafood, Bubbly and Chardonnay:Our Brazilian Wine Pairing Dinner“
Sarah of The Curious Cuisiniere showcases “Pastel de Queijo and Brazilian Sparkling Wine Pairing“
Susannah, our host at Avvinare , posts about “Miolo Merlot Paired with Brazilian Skirt Steak with Golden Garlic Butter.”
Thank you to Wines of Brasil for providing samples and support for members of our group. To learn more, check online:
Brazilian Wine Links: http://winesofbrasil.com
Instagram: @Brazilianwines, FB: https://www.facebook.com/brazilianwines/
Hashtags: #winesofbrasil, #sparklingwine #sparklingdestination