Saturday, March 9, 2019

Wines of Brasil pursue a sparkling agenda

Brazilians are known for fun - carnival parades, the beaches of Rio, dancing the Samba until all hours.  But winemakers in Brazil are getting serious about creating world-class sparkling wine, which, when you think about it, is always a fun beverage.

Brazil is not a huge wine-drinking country, with a paltry 2 liters per person per year consumed there. Those Brazilians who do drink wine, like it on the sweet side.  But today's young generation of winery owners and winemakers are looking to capture foreign markets with dryer wines suited to international tastes - and at the forefront of that effort is a push for sparkling wine. 

Brazil's pursuit of sparkling wine success encompasses all levels of production. The more economical charmat method creates value-driven wines that are fruit forward and fizzy - straightforward and easy drinking. But Brazil also makes sparkling wine with the "traditional method" used in Champagne and other prestigious regions, in which secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle.  This produces wines with more toast or biscuit notes from the extended time on the lees, or dead yeast. Traditional method Brazilian wines are at a quality level that can compete with wines such as French cremants and California sparkling wines. The price point of around $18-$25 makes them an attractive alternative to sparkling wines that start at double that price.   

There are over 100 grapes grown in the huge country, with about an even split between white and red. There are no native grapes grown here, so you see international varieties such as Chardonnay and Merlot, as well as varieties that reflect the country's Portuguese roots as well as the Italian heritage of many of the people in southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, where some of the most successful wineries operate.  

Brazil is also aspiring to become a wine tourism destination. The rolling green hills of the Serra Gaucha wine region and elegant new winery hotels are sure to attract travelers ready for a new country to explore with a glass of bubbly always at the ready.  

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