Ex­pert’s choice: Brazil

Get­ting your hands on them can be a chal­lenge, but the best wines of­fer some fas­ci­nat­ing al­ter­na­tive styles. Dirceu Vianna Ju­nior MW picks out the top drops

Decanter - - CONTENT - Dirceu Vianna Ju­nior MW is a con­sul­tant, wine ed­u­ca­tor and judge at DWWA. He is orig­i­nally from Brazil

The rise of the smaller pro­ducer is im­prov­ing di­ver­sity and qual­ity. Dirceu Vianna Ju­nior MW

VINES wErE IN­trO­DUCED to Brazil’s São Paulo in 1532 by Por­tuguese ex­plorer Brás Cubas, but con­di­tions were not judged ideal and the ex­per­i­ment was aban­doned. Sub­se­quent Por­tuguese set­tlers tried to cul­ti­vate vines in sev­eral dif­fer­ent ar­eas, but the place which re­sponded best to viti­cul­ture was rio Grande do Sul, the coun­try’s southernmost state, bor­der­ing Ar­gentina and Uruguay.

this area is re­spon­si­ble for about 90% of pro­duc­tion to­day. In the green hills around Bento Gonçalves it is pos­si­ble to find ex­cel­lent sparkling wines, the best crafted with Pinot Noir and Chardon­nay. Still white wines can be good but are gen­er­ally less ex­cit­ing. reds, mainly from Bordeaux grapes, can be sur­pris­ingly good as they pos­sess an Old world frame­work plus crisp acid­ity, firm struc­ture and at­trac­tive savoury char­ac­ter. these wines are not as overt or fruit-for­ward in style as their coun­ter­parts else­where in South Amer­ica.

Mod­ern viti­cul­ture has en­abled other ar­eas of Brazil to be ex­plored and a grow­ing num­ber of ex­cit­ing wines are be­ing pro­duced in high-alti­tude vine­yards in Santa Cata­rina. Peo­ple who as­so­ci­ate Brazil with sun­shine and sandy beaches would be as­ton­ished to see vine­yards

cov­ered in snow and win­ter tem­per­a­tures of -10°C. Yet the con­di­tions here are ideal for viti­cul­ture, and are es­pe­cially suited to Sau­vi­gnon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

Projects are also ap­pear­ing in other states. Iron­i­cally, some of the very best Brazil­ian wines to­day are made in São Paulo, pre­vi­ously dis­missed as too hot and hu­mid. In the north of the state, Chardon­nay, Sau­vi­gnon Blanc and Viog­nier make in­ter­est­ing whites, and Syrah grown on high-alti­tude sites is pro­duc­ing ex­cep­tional reds.

Global stage

Brazil has only achieved mixed suc­cess in in­ter­na­tional mar­kets, and op­por­tu­ni­ties to es­tab­lish Brazil­ian wine as a se­ri­ous propo­si­tion have fal­tered. The key is­sue is that large pro­duc­ers are still chas­ing vol­ume rather than try­ing to po­si­tion the coun­try as a se­ri­ous pro­ducer of qual­ity wines. Due to small pro­duc­tion scales, high labour costs and pu­ni­tive tax­a­tion, the in­dus­try sim­ply can’t com­pete on price with Chile and Ar­gentina. Wines must be of ex­cep­tional qual­ity to en­sure that con­sumers who buy one bot­tle, most likely drawn by its nov­elty fac­tor, re­turn for a sec­ond.

While the in­dus­try did not take full ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity to mar­ket its wines dur­ing re­cent sport­ing events hosted in the coun­try, Brazil still en­joys a pos­i­tive im­age with in­ter­na­tional con­sumers – a great plat­form to build a suc­cess­ful mar­ket­ing cam­paign. In­stead of fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle at lower price points, Brazil should em­u­late New Zealand and work to­wards build­ing an im­age for qual­ity at the mid to pre­mium end.

Ex­cit­ing smaller projects are pop­ping up all over the coun­try, so there is more crit­i­cal mass than in the re­cent past and, gen­er­ally speak­ing, qual­ity has never been higher. Ad­di­tion­ally, the 2018 vin­tage is set to be one of the great­est ever. Brazil has not yet man­aged to carve its share of the mar­ket, but there is still a chance.

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