There's been a lengthy hiatus in this blog, and my only excuse is that I was traveling around Brazil, sampling artisanal cachaças and without a lot of access to email. I'll have more on the whole cachaça thing a bit further down the road, but one of the more fascinating aspects of this Brazilian sugar-cane spirit is that distillers down there are producing more and more sipping cachaças, many of them aged in oak barrels but some aged in exotic Brazilian hardwoods such as Umburana (which tends to give a sweetness and tannic quality), Jequitibá (it seemed to provide a sort of faint sassafras character), Balsam (gorgeously aromatic, with fennel notes), Ipé (you got me), Jatobá (ditto) and about 25 others.

Of course, being a wine fanatic as well a recently minted cachaça enthusiast, I couldn't help but wonder—Chardonnay aged in Balsam? Maybe a nice Rhône blend that spends a few years in Umburana and Ipé? I hope some adventurous winemakers are reading this...

Anyway, I'll get more into Cachaça in our May issue & in some upcoming blog entries. In the meantime, if you're curious about Brazilian wines—of which there are many, though unfortunately not that many terrific ones—you could do worse than to check out the crisp and surprisingly appealing 2004 Miolo Brut ($16). Not widely available in the US, alas, but at the very least Gotham Wines & Liquors has it in NYC. (I also liked quite a bit the 2003 Miolo Quinta do Seival, a polished, substantial red made from the Portuguese varieties Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz.)