With a land area of more than eight-million square kilometres and a population in excess of two-hundred-million people, Brazil (Brasil in Portuguese) is the fifth largest country on Earth. Its diverse topography, natural beauty and abundant sunshine, together with the renowned passion and positivity of its people, make the country a popular destination for tourists. City breaks in Rio de Janiero, São Paulo or the purpose built capital, Brasília, eco-holidays in the Amazon and tours that take in the length and breadth of the country as part of a continental or worldwide adventure are all increasingly popular with travellers. And whilst thus far, the fledgling Brazilian wine industry hasn’t really begun to explore the potential of visitors, the international trend towards this kind of tourism makes it a potentially lucrative future avenue for the nation’s vignerons.
Winemaking grapes were first introduced to Brazil by Portuguese settlers in the 1500s and Italian immigrants brought their own native cuttings when they moved on mass to occupy what is now largely considered Brazil’s Wine Country in the late nineteenth century. However, it is only really in the last twenty or thirty years that Brazilian winemakers have began to focus on producing quality wines to be sold domestically and exported.
Historically Brazil has operated a rather closed economy with little competition and limited choice. But since opening itself up to international trade, imports of fine wines from neighbouring countries have forced domestic producers to up their game. With over ninety-thousand hectares under vine, Brazil is now South America’s third most planted nation behind Argentina and Chile. Its equatorial, mostly hot and humid climate makes much of its land area unsuitable for high quality viticulture and as such, the majority of Brazil’s Vitis Vinifera vines are planted in the south where altitude and coastal influences create conditions more conducive to grape growing. The southern province of Rio Grande do Sul accounts for nine tenths of all the country’s wine with the Serra Gaúcha region by far the most important sub-zone.
Sparkling wine remains Brazil’s best known viticultural offering and is produced in a range of traditional and modern styles - Moët & Chandon have actually operated a facility here since 1973. Still varietals are made from red grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Uruguay’s adopted variety, Tannat, whilst whites are principally produced from Chardonnay, Sémillon and Italian Riesling.
Today, the country has more than one-thousand wineries including a large number of small, boutique operations determined to enhance the profile of Brazilian wines on the international stage.