The wine regions surrounding Bento Goncalves, where I visited in May, feature hillside vineyards for the most part. Unlike many other wine producing regions, these sloping vineyards are not on the sides of hills but on the sides of valleys, carved from a basaltic lava flow. This forms the plateaus around the main wine producing region known as Vale dos Vinhedos, or valley of the vines. Nearby and with similar topographical conditions, one finds the smaller but equally promising region of Pinto Bandeira.
This formation, sloping valley sides eroded from basalt, is one of the reasons that the wines of Brazil have such promise. Top soils here tend to be rather thin and meager, ideal for forcing the vines to struggle. Beyond that, they seem to impart a distinct terroir that can be seen across a rather broad section of the wines here. There is a fine minerality in many of the wines and sometimes an ashy note, which might be off putting, but that basalt keeps these wines taut and crisp with fine acidity and tannins.