I don’t see nearly enough sparkling wine from Brazil on restaurant menus and in retail shops. It makes sense, really, since the industry did not begin making strides in foreign markets until the 1990s.
Brazil’s wine industry is nascent, relatively speaking. And while the focus of this article is on sparkling wine, I don’t hesitate to recommend still wines from the region. Forty million liters of wine are produced in Brazil each year, and just under half of it (18.7 million liters) is comprised of sparkling wine. You’d overlook a whole lot of juice if you focused on the region’s sparkling wine alone.
That said, Brazil has been a sparkling wine powerhouse for the last century. The wines are made in both the traditional and Charmat methods. There’s always something to appreciate in all styles and at all price points. The variation testifies to the region’s growing legion of creative winemakers. There are roughly eleven hundred wineries in Brazil working with two hundred grape varieties. Ninety percent of the wineries use grapes from small, family-owned plots of vineyard land.
Brazil’s major sparkler grapes are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Italian Riesling, also known as Welschriesling or Gravesina. The latter-most delivers Brazil’s signature twist on sparkling wine. It brings a lively, acidic backbone that’s hard to find elsewhere. Charmat sparklers often use one or some members of the Muscat family. These are fun, fizzy wines guaranteed to please large crowds.
Terroir plays a role here, too. The sloping valleys of Brazil were carved by lava flow. The basaltic soils resulting from the lava impart trademark characteristics. You will find striking mineral notes with dashes of distant (and distinct) ash. Thin top soils promote positive struggle for the vines. Rain fall is well-drained owing to the porous basaltic soils.
Lastly, you can’t talk about Brazil without mentioning Italy and its people. A wave of immigration in the late 19th century brought Italian immigrants, many from the Veneto region, to Brazil. The impact is felt in country’s wine, food, and culture. The Italians pounced on the gentle slopes of red soils that reach to the Atlantic Ocean and onto the high plateaus and through the hills to grow grapes like never before.
Now, what to taste? I do have a few suggestions, of course. Here are my top three Brazilian sparklers of the moment.
Founded in 1875, Casa Valduga helped put Brazil on the map. This sparkler is made in the traditional method with a combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You can pick up a bottle for under twenty dollars – an astounding value. 90 points.
The Pizzato family (originally from the Veneto) has grown grapes in Brazil for over a century. The winery was founded in 1999 to showcase some of their best stuff. These are vintage bubbles made in the traditional method. I am hoping to see more from this producer available in the United States. 90 points.
Giuseppe Miolo immigrated from the Veneto to Brazil in 1897. The winery opened in 1990, and it continues to be operated by the third and fourth generations of the Miolo family. Again I am impressed with the value on this bottle – usually under twenty dollars. 91 points.