A country famed for Carnival, Copacabana, and caipirinhas, Brazil is coming into its own with a blossoming wine industry. Brazil, with its diverse geography and climate, is now one of the largest producers of wine in the southern hemisphere, supporting over 1,100 wineries in several vineyard regions. Portuguese immigrants first planted grapes in the Sao Paulo region in the 16th century, and Jesuit priests nurtured vineyards in Rio Grande do Sul in the 1600s. Two hundred years later, Italian immigrants took wine production to a new level, bringing with them the skills and knowledge to develop a thriving wine culture reminiscent of their homeland. Recently, Brazil has been thrust into the international spotlight, hosting both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 summer Olympics and giving the country a perfect opportunity to showcase its original wines.
Regions of Note
Most of Brazil’s vineyards are concentrated into six regions of diverse growing conditions, each putting a unique stamp on its local wines. The southern state of Rio Grande do Sul accounts for nearly 90 percent of the country’s wine production and encompasses four important vine-growing regions:
- Serra Gaúcha is home to Bento Gonçalves, the heart of Brazil’s wine country. This colorful region is deeply influenced by European heritage and boasts the famed Vale dos Vinehedos, or Valley of the Vineyards. Serra Gaúcha is especially renowned for its sparkling whites wines.
- Serro de Sudeste produces sweeter, light wines from grapes with a high sugar content and low acidity.
- Campos de Cima is one of the highest–and coldest–of the vine-growing regions. The grapes here have a high concentration of flavor and color due to the altitude.
- Campanha, a vast wine region consisting of rolling hills and prairies, experiences an extended dry period well-suited to the cultivation and ripening of red wine grapes.
One of the newest wine producing regions in Brazil is Santa Catarina, another high altitude region that experiences very low temperatures. Grapes are often grown and harvested during frost.
The northernmost vineyards are in the Vale do São Francisco, in northeast Brazil. The area is flat and dry with abundant sunshine and is known for fruity, sweet wines. The climate allows for multiple harvests throughout the year.