More famous for sport than wine, Brazil nevertheless has a vine-growing heritage that is coming to the fore. Steven Spurrier explores the country's regions and top estates, and is intrigued by what he finds...
Brazilian wine producers
Casa Valduga: Founded in 1973, this estate now owns 250ha across three regions. The traditional- method sparkling wines – a Chardonnay-dominated Brut 130 and a 2006 Brut Nature – are very good, and I found the Raizes Cabernet Franc 2010 from Campanha had all the crunchy fruit expected of it. (Exel Wines)
Cave Geisse: This is Brazil’s renowned producer of traditional-method sparklers solely from Pinto Bandeira. Its Brut Nature 2009 and Blanc de Noirs 2009 are in a class of their own and prove Brazil will become a major player in bubbles. (Go Brazil)
Domno: Under Casa Valduga ownership, Domno produces only Charmat-method sparkling wines, of which the Nero brand is the one to look for.
Dunamis: Founded in 2010 with a production of just 50,000 litres from 25ha in Serra Gaûcha, this is new-generation Brazil at its best, personified by the young winemaker Vinicius Cercato. His Cabernet Franc 2011 won a Sliver at last year’s Decanter World Wine Awards, and I’m surprised his 2011 Merlot did not. His 2011 Cop, a blend of the two Cabernets with 40% Merlot, is very smart.
Lidio Carraro: I cannot hide the fact that this winery, now in its fifth generation, is my favourite. It wishes to preserve the authenticity of variety and terroir and never uses oak, preferring that the wine speaks of the soil, not what it is aged in. From Serra do Sudeste comes its Dádivas brand with lovely sparklers, clear-fruited Chardonnay and really good Pinot Noir and Tempranillo. The Singular label shows expressive Nebbiolo and Teroldego, while the Elos and Lidio Carraro labels are top class. (Go Brazil)
Miolo: (pictured above) Giuseppe Miolo arrived in Vale dos Vinhedos in 1897, and invested all his savings in planting vines on a plot of land called Lote 43. Today, the CEO Adriano Miolo heads a company producing 12 million litres from four of the five wine regions, exporting 30%. On my visit he hosted a wide range of wines from Campanha. Designated in the 1940s by Dr Harold Olmo from the University of Davis, California, as one of South America’s most suitable region for viticulture, this is borne out by the 2,000ha now under vine. The Pinot Grigio 2012, Quinta do Seival Touriga Nacional/Tinto Roriz 2011 blend, and the Tannat 2012 from 38-year-old vines, stood out. In May, the Cuvée Giuseppe Chardonnay 2012, Merlot Terroir 2009 and Lote 43 Merlot/ Cabernet 2011 were very expressive, while the single-vineyard sparkling Millesime 2009 was elegance itself. (Bibendum)
Pizzato: The family’s first vines were planted in the Vale dos Vinhedos in 1875. Today, winemaker Flavio Pizzato, his brother and two sisters run this 42ha vineyard and winery. The Fausto label shows good, fresh varietal wines, while the Pizzato label provides reds with exceptional depth and clarity of fruit, especially the Concentus 2007. Its DNA99 Merlot 2005 was voted Brazil’s best red in 2011 by the country’s leading wine magazine. (Go Brazil)
Salton: Antonio Salton arrived in what is now Serra Gaûcha in 1878 and, in 1910, his son Paulo opened the first winery to be officially established in Brazil. Daniel Salton now runs a company whose own vineyards are bolstered by grapes from more than 700 contract growers. Brazil’s largest producer of Charmat- and traditional-method sparkling wine, Salton’s Prosecco and Moscato are fresh and fruity. Like all big wineries, Salton has several levels of quality: the first is Volpi, with good Chardonnay and Sauvignon; the next Intense, with splendid Cabernet Franc, Tannat and Teroldego; and above these Desejo, a 100% Merlot, and Talente, a Cabernet/Merlot/Tannat blend. (Legacy Wines)
ViniBrasil: Part of the Portuguese group Dão Sul, ViniBrasil produces two crops a year from its 200ha in Vale do São Francisco. Apart from some Charmat- method sparklers, all the still wines are bottled in Portugal under the Rio Sol label. (PLB)
Vinícola Aurora In 1931, 16 families of grape growers joined forces to create Vinícola Aurora, now the country’s largest producer with 42 million litres and 30% of the home market. It exports under two brands, Aurora and Brazilian Soul: both have a nice range of varietal wines, including a great Pinot Noir 2012, at just £8.99.(Stevens Garnier)