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Brazil’s Altos de Pinto Bandeira becomes first DO exclusively for sparkling wines in the New World

The groundbreaking new DO, which took 10 years to achieve, sets the standard for quality production of Brazilian sparkling wines.

Altos de Pinto Bandeira, located in Brazil’s southern Serra Gaúcha wine region, has been recognised as a DO for traditional method sparkling wines. The new DO, which is the first in the New World that’s exclusively for sparkling wines, was announced on 29 November 2022. The first wines labelled DO Altos de Pinto Bandeira will arrive in the market this year.

The move follows 10 years of campaigning and research by the Pinto Bandeira Wine Producers Association (Asprovinho). It worked with bodies including Embrapa Grape and Wine (the state-owned Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, affiliated with Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture), the University of Caxias do Sul and the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul.

Altos de Pinto Bandeira was first recognised as a unique location for producing sparkling wines by Chilean winemaker Mario Geisse. He moved to Brazil in 1976 to work for Moët & Chandon’s Chandon Brazil operation. He then founded his own Familia Geisse winery in Pinto Bandeira in 1979.

A man standing in a vineyard wearing a hat anad sunglasses

Winemaker Mario Geisse. Photo by Julie Sheppard

‘This region has something very rare, which I first encountered 40 years ago,’ said Geisse. ‘It can produce grapes that are at the optimum of sugar and acidity at the moment of harvesting. These characteristics are very marked in this region and allow us to elaborate wines that are typical of the region, without defects.’

Jorge Tonietto, Embrapa Grape and Wine researcher added: ‘This DO has structural equivalence and appropriates a high qualitative level, such as that existing in the prestigious DOs of Champagne sparkling wines from France, or Franciacorta from Italy.’

Altos de Pinto Bandeira DO covers 65km² (6,500ha) spread across three different municipalities on the left bank of the Vale do Rio das Antas: Pinto Bandeira (76.6%), Farroupilha (19%) and Bento Gonçalves (4.4%). Features of the region’s unique terroir include soils of volcanic basalt that offer natural irrigation in the vineyards. Average rainfall is 1,400mm and average altitude of vineyards is 632m.

Three grape varieties are permitted in the DO: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling Italico (Welschriesling). Yields are limited to 12 tonnes per hectare, with strict control rules for traditional method production in the winery. Currently four wineries are permitted to label their wines DO Altos de Pinto Bandeira: Geisse, Aurora, Don Giovanni and Valmarino.

Brazilian wine expert Maurício Roloff, education director of the Brazilian Sommelier Association, said: ‘This is part of the larger process of having sparkling wine as Brazil’s flagship wine style. It’s still a very wide category, but it’s the one thing people talk about with Brazilian wine. So having this DO shows us as specialists in sparkling.’

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