The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2017

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december 2017  /  the tasting panel  /  105 C onstantly looking for new expe- riences is a common behavior of all wine lovers. For those who want to get to know today the labels that will surprise the world tomorrow, Brazilian wines are the right bet. But for a country with continental dimensions and such a large diversity of wines, where to start? The search is over: Sparkling wine serves as the best example of a stunning surprise Brazil can offer to the wine world. One explanation for the natural association between sparkling wines and Brazil is that, in any part of the world, both are synonymous with celebra- tions. But this connection would not be possible if it weren't for the high quality of bubblies made in the country—a true Brazilian specialty. Combining tradition with a professional and technologically- advanced industry, Brazil is quickly becoming a standout in the sparkling wines category, which is the fastest- growing segment around the world. The secret lies in the refreshing and easy-to-appreciate sparkling style, which explores different production techniques and a terroir plurality only a country the size of Brazil can deliver. Sparkling wine has become such a part of Brazil's viticultural identity that today it is made in any one of the six main producing zones. But the original laboratory of this national passion was the Serra Gaúcha region in the extreme south of Brazil, where Italian immigrant Manoel Peterlongo made the first sparkling wine near the beginning of the 20th century (records indicate the year was 1913). The wine benefitted from the region's typical characteristics, including the basaltic soil which offers minerality and good drainage, as does the topography marked by valleys; the average altitude of 1,970 feet (roughly 600 meters) above sea level, meanwhile, guarantees freshness. Peterlongo prioritized the use of early-harvested white grapes to preserve good acidity, and little by little, he founded the style for Brazilian sparkling wines—easy to drink both alone or paired with food, and always reflecting a youthful and happy spirit. The most common grapes currently used in Brazil's sparkling wines are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Italian Riesling. While the advantages of combining the first two varieties are widely known, the use of the Italian Riesling (also called Welschriesling or Graševina) comes as a surprise and carries mainly acidity and freshness. Styles made from the Muscat grape family, inspired by the Italian sparkling wines of the Asti commune, are also successful. Fermentation in sealed autoclaves preserves the sweetness and typical aromatic strength of these varieties, among which Moscato Giallo, Moscato Bianco, Muscat of Alexandria, and Muscat Hamburg stand out. The dry and semi-dry sparkling wines are made by the Charmat or traditional methods in wineries that merge the established practice of classic techniques with cutting-edge technology. The combination of differ- ent maturation periods, the diversity of terroirs, and a wide variety of grapes and winemaking styles allow Brazil to offer many different product profiles. Even 100 years later, the Serra Gaúcha region remains the most important reference for anyone interested in the Brazilian sparkling wine industry. Production became so specialized that Brazilian wineries felt the need to point out the specific voca- tion of each terroir, thereby creating a system of Geographical Indication (GI) for the country. At present, there are five certified GIs in Serra Gaúcha, of which three of them—Designation of Origin (DO) Vale dos Vinhedos, Indication of Provenance (IP) Pinto Bandeira, and IP Farroupilha—have a special focus on fizz. The state of Rio Grande do Sul, where Serra Gaúcha is located, is also home to three other wine regions considered strategically important to Brazil's enological industry: Campos de Cima da Serra, Campanha, and Serra do Sudeste. The distance between them, which accounts for varying cli- mate, soil, and topographic particulari- ties, all but guarantees the diversity of Brazilian wine production. Meanwhile, the Planalto Catarinense, a region in the state of Santa Catarina, produces wines with freshness and elegance, while the semi-arid properties of Vale do São Francisco form what's known as the planet's largest tropical vineyard. The positive perception of Brazilian sparkling wines in terms of quality and price can be measured by their performance in the domestic market; Brazilian brands have nearly 80 percent of the market share in the country. Well-known critics, including Jancis Robinson and Steven Spurrier, have tested and praised Brazilian sparkling wines, comparing their quality to wines from various acclaimed regions like Champagne and Prosecco (Veneto). And if their opinions don't provide enough assurance, curious wine drinkers can focus on the medals these labels continue to add to their names in wine competitions around the world. Discover now what makes Brazilian sparkling wines unique, authentic, and, at the same time, uncomplicated—it's the Brazilian spirit in every bottle. Sparkling wines are currently produced in any one of the six main wine regions of Brazil. Campanha, Brazil's largest producing zone near Argentina and Uruguay, offers both great bubblies and beautiful landscapes. PHOTO: SILVIA TONON

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