A Brazilian Sommelier Wants You to Know His Country Is Making Excellent Wine
When it comes to South American wines, most drinkers think of Chile, Argentina, maybe even Uruguay. Typically absent from that list is the continent's biggest and most populous country. However, Brazil’s young wine industry is trying to mount a challenge to their more experienced neighbors, specifically with sparkling wines, both whites and rosés.
Wine production in Brazil's major growing region, Rio Grande do Sul, dates back to the 1600s, but for the first 300 years Brazilian producers focused on quantity rather than quality. However, in the 1970s French wine companies like Moet & Chandon arrived in Brazil bringing with them both equipment and centuries of experience.
While there are now a number of quality producers crafting great wines in Brazil, the majority of the wine is still consumed within the country itself and it is rarely exported to North America or Europe. But as the labels continue to succeed locally, though, both production and export are expected to grow and soon, Brazilian wines will almost certainly be available in US wine shops. We spoke with Cassiano Borges, sommelier at the recently opened Palácio Tangará Hotel and Tangará Jean-Georges Restaurante in São Paulo, to get his picks on bottles and producers to be on the look out for at a wine shop near you.
Produced in a simlar way to Champagne, this sparkling white from Vinicola Pericó is known for its fine bubbles and creaminess.
Ponto Nero Blanc de Blancs
Another sparkling white, however, Ponto Nero Blanc de Blancs is made from 100 percent Chardonnay. Borges likes the dried fruit flavors, along with toasted notes the wine takes on during a secondary fermentation during that time. Ponto Nero comes from the Vale dos Vinhedos (Vineyard Valley) in Brazil's southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, home to the majority of Brazilian wine.
Cave Geisse Rosé
Cave Geisse was founded in 1979 by the winemaker Mario Geisse, a Chilean who came to Brazil in 1976 and was hired to direct Moët & Chandon of Brazil. He was one of the first wine makers that believed in Brazil’s potential to make great wine, especially sparkling wines. And his sparkling rosé comes from a well known are in Rio Grande do Sul called Bento Gonçalves. And it just happens to be one of Borges' favorite rosés.
Another sparkler from “Vale dos Vinhedos” in Rio Grande do Sul, this white comes Casa Valduga, a family operation that has been making wine for over a century, long before the industry had taken the shape it has today.
Guaspari Vista do Chá
The one still wine Borges wanted to highlight is one of the few wines of any type produced in the state of São Paulo, Guaspari Vista do Chá is made by Vinicola Guaspari in Espirito Santo do Pinhal, just two and a half hours from the city of São Paulo. After making its first 30 bottles in 2008 the winery had a lot of doubters, but almost a decade later has found an enthusiastic audience for its reds.