A First Course in Wine: From Grape to Glass. Copyright 2013; Race Point Publishers, NY. 224 pages. Forward by Mario Batali.

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Not Just Soccer: Brazil Makes Wine!

The 2014 World Cup is under way in Brazil.  While 99.99% of the population tuned into watch the opening match of Brazil vs. Croatia, a few Brazilian oenophiles were somewhere else, focused on something else, enjoying and tasting something else:  BRAZILIAN WINE!  Yes, low and behold Brazil makes some great wines and they’re only getting better.

The wine zones of Brazil - mostly in the south

The wine zones of Brazil – mostly in the south

Grapevines in Brazil were first cultivated by Portuguese colonists in the sixteenth century, but withered when the Christian missionary buildings were destroyed and vacated.  Later in the 1800s, European immigrants brought with them their love of the vine, and wine production has since flourished.

At present, there are more than 1,100 wineries throughout the country’s six wine regions, most of which are located in the south – far from the equator – bordering with Uruguay and Paraguay.  Vineyard acreage totals about 83,700 hectares (206,000 acres); about 1/3 of the vineyards in California.  Only 25% of total production is made using vitis vinifera grapes, the rest is composed of indigenous grape species and also the American specie, vitis labrusca.

Most of Brazil’s vineyards and wine zones are in the south where temperatures are generally cooler than in the northern states.  Rio Grande do Sul is the heart of Brazil’s wine industry, and accounts for 90% of fine wine production.  The wines from Serra Gaúcha, a smaller area within Rio Grande, have emerged as some of the country’s best.

Success of Brazilian wines has attracted interest from foreign winemakers, and there has been a surge of investment and more plantings.  The world’s leading enologists are also flocking to Brazil to investigate what Brazil has to offer.

The main white varieties are Chardonnay, Riesling, Sémillon, and Gewürztraminer and the main black grape varieties are Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tannat, Ancellota, Egiodola, Tourigan Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Marselan, a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.  Cabernet Franc is also planted and is rapidly increasing in vineyard acreage.

Check out the wines from producers like Vinho Pizzato for a great introduction to Brazilian wine…and happy watching.

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