The Wines and Wineries of Brazil

Amazing wineries in a surprising wine region


What follows are brief snapshots of 10 important Brazilian wineries I visited in May. They all play specific roles in the Brazilian wine industry, whether that means producing high volumes, pioneering emerging regions and varieties, or simply helping to market the wines of Brazil intelligently and effectively.

I know many people are going to disagree with my ratings for many of these wines, primarily because they are made in a style that does not closely adhere to what we believe to be the popularly accepted style. In fact, some of the most vocal criticism is likely to come from those in Brazil itself!

How can these wines possibly be scored so highly when they fail to approach the style, power and consistency of an Argentine or a Chilean wine? That “failure” is exactly why these wines are so appealing. For the most part, they buck the trend of adapting an international style. I think this is because producers realize that they simply cannot make wines like that.

Instead, Brazilian producers have embraced what the land and the climate have given them and in turn have produced wines that are different and unique. These are wines that speak to me. Defending wines that lack the power, richness, depth of fruit and opulence that have become synonymous with “great wine” over the past two decades is a funny position to be in, but the wines of Brazil remind us that there was great wine before this all became the norm. In fact, there continue to be wines that are great for the palate yearning for something other than the norm. Sometimes, you just have to look a little harder to find those wines.

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Lidio Carraro

Undoubtedly one of the stars of Brazil and the finest set of wines tasted on my trip, these wines define what is possible in the region. Surprisingly, the winery does not use any oak for aging. Instead, the fruit is allowed to express itself simply and unfettered as it is aged in stainless steel.

The vines that Carraro uses are located around the winery and in the neighboring region of Campanha. Founded in 1998 and first producing wine in 2002, Carraro has grown production from 40 hectares (100 acres) of vineyards to some 11,000 12-bottle cases a year. The youth of the winery should not be mistaken for inexperience though, as Lidio is the fifth generation of Carraro grape growers. He is now practicing organic and has years of experience in the industry. It shows, but experience alone is not sufficient to produce these wines. There is genius at work here.

Top Wine Tasted: 2006 Lidio Carraro Tannat Grande Vindima 94pts

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Pizzato

42 hectares (103 acres) produce some 12,000 cases of Pizzato wine, and you can taste some of that earth in virtually every wine produced here. As is typical of Brazil's wine industry, sparkling wines play an important role in the production of Pizzato, but the reds are more interesting. While the sparklers naturally taste of technique, the reds show terroir; salty, ashy, basaltic terroir.

Whether you like these wines or not is a different argument, but you can't argue that Pizzato is capturing something in every bottle. I know I like these wines more than most will, but then again, I am a sucker for finding something unique in a bottle instead of just another bowl of oak-aged berries. Pizzato's wines are well made and seem to be among the most terroir-driven wines I encountered in Brazil.

Top Wine Tasted: 2006 Pizzato Concentus 91pts

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Salton

Salton is the granddaddy of Brazil's wine industry. The winery is over 100-years-old and produces some 165,000 cases of wine, much of which is rather impressive sparkling wine. No knock on sparkling wine, but they are not the best for revealing the terroir and potential of a region. Leaving those aside for the moment, it is worth noting that Salton produces an impressive array of white and red wines as well.

The style here is a bit difficult to pin down since a range of wines is produced, but the best wines do share a richness, albeit one that is distinctly modern in feel. In general, the wines are very high quality and nicely blend modern winemaking with the terroir that Brazilian wines are capable of expressing.

Top Wine Tasted: 2007 Salton Talento 91pts

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Valduga

It is surprising that Valduga dates back only to 1973 since the winery seems to have grown to be very successful while retaining a historical feel. This is because the roots of the modern winery do date back to 1875, the earliest days of the local wine industry. With so much experience, it's no surprise that the winery is well suited to receive guests, with some of the finest tasting rooms, shops and restaurants that I saw on my travels through the region.

Again, sparkling wines are very important and well represented in the Valduga line-up, but it should not be surprising to find white and red wines playing a significant role as well. The guard at the front gate still speaks the rural Italian of the local immigrant population. Production runs about 150,000 12-bottle cases per year, with fruit coming from 50 hectares (123 acres) of estate vineyards supplemented with 160 hectares (395 acres) in Encruzilhada do Sul. The wines of Valduga are roughly similar to those of Salton in that there is a nice balance between fruit, terroir and intelligent winemaking, though the wines here do seem to have a little something extra.

Top Wine Tasted: Casa Valduga 60 Brut 91pts

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Miolo

Miolo is one of Brazil's most successful wineries, attracting several hundred thousand visitors a year and selling a significant volume of wine through the tasting room. With 1,200 hectares (nearly 3000 acres) under vine, it's not surprising that Miolo has the scale to produce attractively priced wines. They do, but a significant percentage of the 135,000 or so cases a year are premium wines.

Miolo's wines are good in that they are quite clean and consistent, but there is more winemaker here than terroir at times and the winemaking seems to be pushing for a rather international style. I would prefer to see Miolo make wines that speak more abut Brazil’s terroir and the potential it affords than about the ability to produce rather satisfactory fighting varietals.

Top Wine Tasted: 2008 Miolo Lote 43 91pts

See all the wines tasted
 

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Comments

  • Snooth User: nicog
    367854 4

    I was surprised that this list didn't include Villa Francioni in Santa Caterina, which in my opinion has one of the most advanced wineries I have seen (been in some of the best in California) and its wine, although expensive particularly for that part of the world, paralleled some of the top Californian wines at that price range.

    Aug 14, 2012 at 1:47 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 185,542

    Hi Nicog,
    I didn't make it to Santa Caterina, just to the regions around Bento Goncalves. I hope to visit Santa Caterina and Campahna on my next visit!

    Aug 14, 2012 at 2:26 PM


  • Snooth User: Rodperri
    353218 3

    The problem with "good" Brazilian wine is that it is overpriced. A 2006 Lidio Carraro will sell for around US$ 100,00 in Brazil. For this money one can buy a decent Brunello or Barolo, as well as very good Chilean and Argentinean wines.

    Aug 14, 2012 at 2:45 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 185,542

    Thanks for the comment Rod,

    I can't argue with it. From what I understand the price of many of these wines in Brazil really makes it difficult to compete with the imports. I only tasted the wines, don't even know most of the pricing.

    One point though, if the export market for Brazil improves it should help the domestic wine situation by putting the industry on more stable ground, thereby allowing for the reduction and perhaps eventual elimination of the tariffs that penalize imports, and the wineries themselves, with their increased cash flows could take advantage of certain economies of scale.

    Wishful thinking perhaps, but I did like the wines and hope that they get wider recognition for their quality.

    Aug 14, 2012 at 3:06 PM


  • Several years ago I enjoyed a 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon “Marco Luigi” Grande Reserva that was full bodied, fruity and velvety in the mouth. I only know that it came from Southern Brasil. Incidentally, the same house produced a lovely, sparkling white, Tributo Brut, that rivaled the best champagnes I tasted inf France. Sadly, neither was available in the US at the time.

    Aug 14, 2012 at 5:08 PM


  • Rodperri is absolutely right, and without the stupidly high taxes, european wines would be even cheaper, making it very hard to compete with. brazilian sparkling wines, white unoaked and light reds can be very interesting and pleasant, but they are expensive, unfortunately...

    Aug 14, 2012 at 5:57 PM


  • Snooth User: Rodperri
    353218 3

    Thanks for the reply Gregory. I certainly hope for your wishful thinking to come through. Wine consumption in Brazil has expanded significantly over the last few years and that in itself is good news as, with market growth comes greater competition and better prices.

    I'd like to make an important point that I loved your article. Especially because of your emphasis on the value of uniqueness and personality, over the expected international style currently adopted by many new world wineries. To me, the most fascinating part of appreciating wines is exactly the discovery of new flavors and experiences.

    Aug 14, 2012 at 6:10 PM


  • Snooth User: PELLEZZANO
    512238 55

    The South of Brazil is better known by its very expensive wines that cannot compete with the imports. Sparkling wines are the king despite the prices are in the sky. GDP by the way mention several sparkling wines. I personally do not find good Brazilian wines that will open my heart without looting my pocket. If you live in Brazil better buy some French or Italian wines.

    Aug 14, 2012 at 6:49 PM


  • Most of this brands it will be available very soon in USA and distributed nationally by Southern Wine and Spirits, the largest distributor in USA that believes Brazilian Wines are very competitive in price & quality! Jancis Robinson, one of the most recognized wine critic in UK said this week in his page on twitter: "YES, I BELIEVE IN BRAZILIAN WINE POTENTIAL!"

    Aug 14, 2012 at 7:31 PM


  • Pellezzano probably lives in Brazil, as I do, and is correct about the consumer choice: we are buying more european wines than ever!

    Aug 14, 2012 at 10:17 PM


  • Hello people!
    I agree Brazilian wines are quite expensive within Brazil and if one doesn’t know too much about the issue, buying can be very difficult. We all know that because of the quantity of labels offered, there are more and more ‘stuck in the middle’. Those can be good wines and consumer then should take advantage and search to find out the best cost x pleasure surrounding this level. I mean, it’s possible to find good Brazilian wines on a medium/premium category. In order to catch that, curiosity and time are necessary though.
    Regarding sparkling, it is not true that they are expensive. Find bellow some nice ones at reasonable prices. All them are champenoise and mostly use chardonnay and pinot noir. Show, at least, a bit of complexity and strength.

    Fausto Pizzato Brut R$ 32,60 APROX. US$ 16.00
    http://www.costibebidas.com.br/prod...

    Cave Geisse Brut R$ 53,06 aprox. US$ 26.00
    http://www.vinhosnet.com.br/produto...

    Salton Brut Évidence R$ 48,00 aprox. US$ 24.00
    http://www.salton.com.br/novo/loja/...

    Dal Pizzol Brut Champenoise R$ 53,06 aprox. US$ 26.00
    http://www.vinhosnet.com.br/produto...

    Valmarino Brut Champenoise R$ 29,00 aprox. US$ 14.50
    http://www.vinhosesabores.com.br/de...


    Aug 15, 2012 at 3:35 PM


  • Snooth User: PELLEZZANO
    512238 55

    OK! GDP is right when he mentions sparkling Brazilian wines. If one is not in France you do not need to care much producing sparking wines. Try to find a brut nature in Brazil and you'll need to dig deep to try to find something. Of course if one is looking for a not so expensive sec or demi-sec then go to the South of Brazil.
    If one is used to Taurasi, Primitivo, Falerno del Massico, Greco di Tufo, Falanghina, Aglianico,Solopaca,Asprino di Aversa (interesting wine and interesting way they grow the plant), Cirò Bianco just to mention a few wines coming from the region that produces wine since 1,500 years BC, continue please browsing the imports aisle of your wine shop (if you are in Brazil).

    Aug 15, 2012 at 6:52 PM


  • Snooth User: vinodm28
    551301 2

    What a great post. While production has been declining in most regions for the past ten years other countries have take busy growing. I have not had the opportunity to taste anty Brazilian wine but having read this post I will sample some.if I can find bottles in Italy (I doubt as Italians are like the French: they only stock italian wines) Vincent from http://www.seosynovation.com

    Aug 16, 2012 at 11:30 AM


  • Hello Gregory! Congratulations! And don`t forget to visit São Paulo next time! :-)
    Humberto Leite

    Aug 19, 2012 at 9:04 AM


  • Snooth User: Rodperri
    353218 3

    Gregory, following-up on your article, I went ahead to buy a few bottles from Don Guerino, which I had never tasted before. Indeed, this was a good surprise. I bought a few bottles of the 2011 Reserva Merlot, at a very reasonable US$ 14.00, as well as a couple of their 2007 Gran Reserva Ancellotta and a couple of the 2007 Gran Reserva Teroldego, both wines priced at around US$ 25.00. The Reserva Merlot was a great tip: a very pleasant wine, with good structure. The great surprise came from the 2007 Gran Reserva Ancellotta. What a delicious little wine! I was not familiar with this varietal and came to learn it is common mainly in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.The wine from Don Guerino is a light/medium red, pleasurable and easy to drink and pair. For Brazilian standards, I believe I have found an excellent value with these wines. Thanks for the tip!

    Sep 04, 2012 at 3:22 PM


  • Snooth User: PELLEZZANO
    512238 55

    The 2011 Reserva one can pick for $17 in Brazil. For the other grapes (their origin is Emilia-Romagna and Trentino) $30 will be enough.
    Don Guerino has also some fair sparkling wines (Prosecco, Chardonnay and Moscatel at $12 each). I do not know if GDP tasted them when in the South of Brazil.

    Sep 04, 2012 at 4:34 PM


  • Snooth User: maoistao
    454663 1

    Thanks for talking about Brazilian wine. I spent several weeks in Campanha, a region in the south that borders Uruguay and in Serra Guacha. I will say that I was very impressed with the wines. I just now brought in Lidio Carrera's wines into my restaurant in San Diego. Brazilian wines are unique and the best examples were wines without oak or very little oak. These wines show excellent terroir and the true nature of the Brazilian fruit. One winery that should get recognition is Barcarola in the Serra Guacha, excellent wines! Here is a little post with a brief history of Brazilian wine. http://mauricescru.com/wine-posts/b... Thank you for the great article.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 11:27 AM


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    1331306 37

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    1339624 38


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    1379445 33

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    1380229 34

    The problem with "good" Brazilian wine is that it is overpriced. A 2006 Lidio Carraro will sell for around US$ 100,00 in Brazil. For this money one can buy a decent Brunello or Barolo, as well as very good Chilean and Argentinean wines.

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    1385782 33

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    1390221 33

    The problem with "good" Brazilian wine is that it is overpriced. A 2006 Lidio Carraro will sell for around US$ 100,00 in Brazil. For this money one can buy a decent Brunello or Barolo, as well as very good Chilean and Argentinean wines.

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    1400658 33

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  • Hello Gregory! Congratulations! And don`t forget to visit São Paulo next time! :-)
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