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07.2014

WORLD CUP WINES

David Taste

Brazilian Wines Hope to Find the Back of the Net
By Marilyn LaRocque

The 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games notwithstanding, what comes to mind when you think of Brazil? Samba? Bossa Nova? Ipanema Beach and barelythere bikinis? Possibly cachaça? It’s a sure bet it’s not wine!
When it comes to South American wines, Brazil’s neighbors – Argentina, Chile, and even Uruguay –have established a beachhead in America’s markets and restaurants. To gain visibility, Wines of Brasil is riding the coattails of a World Cup that’s focusing attention on all things Brazilian. Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein, president and chief education officer of Full Circle Wine Solutions, headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, came to town with an array of Brazilian wines. Joining him at a tasting at Fogo de Chão was Daniel Marquez from Wines of Brasil.
One of the challenges Brazil faces in establishing a presence in the American wine scene is the fact that vinifera vines, which produce the prestige grapes associated with fine wines, are just a drop in the barrel, roughly 11 percent of the 227,000 acres under vine. The remaining 89 percent of the acres produce grapes used for common wine, juice, jelly and table grapes.
Consequently, the challenge for Brazilian winemakers is to make wines that will compete successfully in the world marketplace. Brazil has six main wine regions. Most are clustered south of São Paulo: Serra Gaúcha, the first and main wine region, accounting for 85 percent of Brazil’s wine production; Campos de Cima da Serra, contiguous to Serra Gaúcha; Serra do Sudeste, with Encruzilhada do Sul as its center; Campanha, on the 31st parallel, evolving as a winemaker’s paradise with a warmer, drier climate and clay and granite soils; Vale do São Francisco, closest to the equator; and Planalto Catarinense, the highlands area.
As the region with the highest elevation, 3,000-4,600 feet, Planalto Catarinense is the coldest, with temperatures averaging from 49-66° F. It’s late harvest and “ice wine” territory. The lowest, Campanha, at the border of Uruguay, averages 689 feet of elevation; its temperatures range from 54-76° F. It’s entirely planted to vinifera grapes and accounts for 15 percent of Brazil’s fine wine production. Cabernet sauvignon leads the parade.
The hottest region is Vale do São Francisco, northwest of Salvador. Although vineyards are at
about 1,200 feet, the temperature range is 69- 90° F. The climate is warm and dry but with high humidity. With this equatorial location, plenty of irrigation and severe pruning, it produces two crops annually.
Serra Gaúcha, the focal point of wine production, hovers around 1,900-2,600 feet and 55-73° F. It resembles French and Italian wine country. It’s home to familiar varietals and lesser-known grapes, with merlot enjoying the longest track record and oldest vines. Its Vale dos Vinhedos is Brazil’s only Denominação de Origem, or DO. Pinto Bandeira holds the Indicaçio de Procedencia, or IP, for sparkling wines. The mostexpensive vineyard acreage is in Vale dos Vinhedos, with soils comparable to the Pacific
Northwest and southeastern Australia. Bordeaux reds such as merlot and cabernet franc are standouts. Serra do Sudeste also brags about its soil, a combination of limestone and granite.
Chardonnay and pinot noir, with some tannat, flourish. Like Rodney Dangerfield, the Brazilian wine industry “gets no respect” from the home crowd, which consumes less than half a gallon per person annually. It certainly hasn’t attracted celebrity athletes as winery owners, partners and marketing headliners. The closest Brazil gets to blending sports and wine is GLOBO TV soccer announcer Galvão Bueno, a partner of Miolo Wine Group. The world wine scene, on the other hand, touts such luminaries as race car legend Mario Andretti; football greats Drew Bledsoe, Mike Ditka, Dan Marino and Joe Montana; golfers Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Arnold Palmer; Olympic figure skating champion Peggy Fleming and hockey champ Wayne Gretzky; and baseball Hall of Famer Tom Seaver.
However, this is not to say that Brazil has blinders on when it comes to the marketing potential of associating wine with a major sports event like the FIFA World Cup. And the winner of the battle to be named “Official Wine” of soccer’s tour de force is: Lidio Carraro Boutique Winery in the Serra Gaúcha region. Called “Faces,” their trio of wines includes a white, red and a rosé. They’re the only wines sanctioned to use the official FIFA seal worldwide and are being served at FIFA-organized events associated with the World Cup.
(They were also the official wine of the Pan-American Olympics in 2007.) The winery estimates the deal will “double production and significantly expand distribution.” In 1998, the five-generation Carraro viticulture family launched new vineyards with the goal of producing premium wines. Their first vintage was 2002. Lidio Carraro produces both still and sparkling wines. (Incidentally, sparklers constitute 15 percent of total Brazilian wines sales and 45 percent of fine wine sales.) The primary grapes they use are cabernet sauvignon, merlot, tempranillo, tannat, pinot noir, and chardonnay. They focus on “representing the grape varietal and the terroir” in their wines. The big surprise — they don’t use oak!
Described as expressing “joy, elegance and character,” the 2013 white “was inspired by the cheerfulness of Brazilians” and is made from the three dominant white grapes from vineyards in Rio Grande do Sul –chardonnay, muscat, and Italian Riesling, with the blend divided in thirds.
Although no “Faces” wines were poured at the Vegas tasting, the 2012 Lidio Carraro Dádivas chardonnay, Serra do Sudeste – Encruzilhada do Sul was. Made of grapes from three chardonnay parcels picked at different times for a variety of acidity and ripeness, it was fruity and mellow with a hint of caramel. (SRP $21.95)
The “Faces” rosé, 2013 vintage, ostensibly represents “Brazilians’ joy of living.” It’s made of pinot noir (50 percent) merlot (35 percent), and touriga nacional (15 percent) grapes from Serra Gaúcha and the southern part of Rio Granade do Sul. The 2013 red “has 11 grapes in the blend, such as a football team has 11 players …” Merlot and cabernet sauvignon dominate as the “strikers.”
Interestingly, one of TV broadcaster Bueno’s wines served at the Vegas event was among my favorites. Miolo Terroir merlot, 2011, Serra Gaúcha – Val dos Vinhedos is 100 percent merlot with full-flavored fruit reminiscent of black currants and roasted coffee with briar and pepper overtones. (SRP $26.99). Another winning 100 percent merlot was the 2007 Salton
Desejo, Serra Gaúcha – Vale dos Vinhedos. It was aged 50-50 in French and American oak for 12 months. Flavors of blueberry, raspberry and plum are accented by truffle and black pepper. (SRP $29.99)
Also a plus for Brazilian wines is their “food friendly” character. Alcohol levels of the six still wines we tasted ranged from 12-14 percent. Most were 13-13.5 percent. The wines are truly an accompaniment to food, not an adversary.
One of the best restaurants in Vegas for discovering Brazilian wines and their affinity for food is Fogo de Chao churrascaria, a prime example of the Brazilian steak house, patterned after the traditional gaucho (Southern Brazilian cowboy) churrasco barbecues of meat grilled over open-flame pits. The constant parade of succulent meats and poultry, with a heavy emphasis on beef, kept pace with the wines and was an ideal complement to the excellent reds and the chardonnay.

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Lidio Carraro Vinícola Boutique Estrada do Vinho, RS 444, Km 21
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Lidio Carraro Vinícola Boutique - Estrada do Vinho, RS 444, Km 21 - Linha 40 da Leopoldina, Vale dos Vinhedos, Bento Gonçalves - RS - Brasil
+55 54 2105 2555 - atendimento@lidiocarraro.com

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