Snooth’s Wine of the Year 2013: 2008 Lidio Carraro Tannat Grande Vindima
Special Mention to: 2005 Lidio Carraro Merlot Grande Vindima
See all 12 Lidio Carraro wines tasted this year
I should mention a few details that led to the production of such remarkable wines.
Lidio Cararro, like so many of the wine producers in Serra Gaucha, is a descendent of Italian immigrants who arrived in Brazil in the late 19th century. As was custom, these new arrivals in a foreign land quickly began to set up a new life for themselves, one that retained the pleasures and necessities of that which they had left behind. With Italian immigrants, that meant wine, as is witnessed around the globe.
In the case of the Carraro family, as well as all of the winemakers in the Vale dos Vinhedos (Valley of the Vineyards), this meant working with their native grape varieties when possible, which was not very often. The climate in Brazil, warm and damp, was difficult for primitive farmers and only recently have farmers been able to get the upper hand in this battle.
For a century or so, the Carraro family farmed grapes, trained in the traditional pergola system, and more often than not, used American hybrids that produced wines of disputable quality. They probably did not think twice about the matter, until Lidio came along.
Lidio decided to make a life out of winemaking and grape farming, and the two go very much hand in hand. Thirty years ago, Lidio was one of the first proponents of moving the Brazilian wine industry into the modern era. Vitis Vinifera replaced the hybrids and modern vine training systems designed to produce quality fruit replaced the prolific pergola training systems.
It was a first step and one that proved successful, but there was more to do. Lidio became interested in the concept of terroir, not only in the sense that a wine expresses its site, but also in the notion that there are sites with distinctly different terroirs. How could he resist the temptation to find and develop the perfect vineyards? His choice to leave the comfortable employ of the industry might have been a practical decision, as well.
I can imagine the discussions he had nearly 20 years ago when he must have pled his case, suggesting that perfectly good vines be replaced with expensive, high-density plantings. Considering the conditions of the times, I expect it did not go over all that well.
All the better for us. In 1998, Lidio set out on his own. He planted seven hectares (about 17 acres) of vines, the right vines, trained the right way. Of course, it takes time for vines to begin producing fruit, so it wasn’t until 2002 that the first Lidio Carraro wines were produced. Here we are, just four vintages later, and Lidio is producing some of the best wines I’ve had all year.
There has to be some magic involved, right? There might be, some Biodynamic practices are being used as well organic farming methods, but the real magic seems to be a continued attention to detail. The introduction of a gravity fed winery, Brazil’s first, a diligent canopy management, green harvesting (the Tannat comes in at 1 kg per vine), hand harvesting, the decision to not use oak barrels, bottling the wines unfiltered. Every decision and every step is made with one purpose in mind, to put the essence of the grape variety grown at that specific site in every bottle.
It is obvious to me that the Carraro clan is doing things right. Across the board, their wines are delicious, and that is ultimately the highest praise one can offer a wine maker. Wine of the year comes in as a close second, of course.
Congratulations are in order for the Carraro team. I would like to thank them all for putting so much passion in each bottle. It opened my eyes to the incredible potential not only of their wines, but of all the wines of Brazil!