Brazilian Sparklers Come of Age

Andrea Lemieux from the Quirky Cork is our host this month for a trip around the world looking at Bubbly wines.

Brazil makes sparkling, still and sweet, white, rosé and red wines. Rather than having a signature defining grape variety like some of their South American neighbors, Brazil is now widely known for their sparkling wines made in all different styles including the Charmat method, the Martinotti method, and the Traditional method. Additionally, they make sparkling wines from a variety of grapes including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling Italico, and Moscato, among others.

Presently the largest and most well-known wine region is  Serra Gaûcha in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

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The above photo was taken in Bento Gonçalves, in Rio Grande do Sul, which is really the center of the country’s wine industry. To go into the town, you have to drive into a wine barrel. You get the idea.

Brazilian sparklers tend to be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Riesling Italico which is also called Welschriesling. Riesling Italico is not related to Riesling Renano or German Riesling. It is a fairly neutral grape from Central Europe with loads of acidity. This signature blend can be found with different producers in the country. Sparkling wines are also made from a host of other grapes grown in Brazil including many made just from Chardonnay such as the one shown on the top, my first taste of Brazilian sparkling wine as a welcome drink in our hotel.

That sparkler came from Lidio Carraro, a lovely producer from the region. That particular wine is a blanc de blanc which a gorgeous perlage, great mouthfeel, and classic Chardonnay aromas of Apple and Pear. The do batonnage a number of times a day and the wine ferments on its lees so the texture is supple, rich, and the aromatics include yeast and brioche notes from the lees.

One can find sparklers also made with Moscatel, particularly famous from Farroupilha. I tried them those wines at Casa Perrini when visiting Brazil in January 2019.

The family that founded Casa Perrini immigrated to Brazil from Trento, Italy in 1876 during a huge migration of Italians to Brazil. In fact, many of the families that own wineries in Brazil have Italian roots. My Portuguese was terrible at the time of the visit so I often spoke Italian instead.

Salton, the largest winery in Brazil, makes a large range of sparklers including from the Glera grape. While Salton is not an Italian name, the family did originally come to Brazil from Northern Italy, from the Veneto. In Brazil, some producers still use the word Prosecco when selling sparkling wines made with Glera but they shouldn’t and I won’t. Glera does grow very well in Brazil and like people the world over, Glera-based sparkling wines are a huge wave in Brazil.

Salton has the most impressive bottling line I have ever seen, actually they have two of them. They also have a series of tunnels with different wine cellars, statues of Angels adorning the walls, and Gregorian chants playing.

They make a beautiful sparkling wine called Ouro using the Long Charmat method. They pick the grapes early to retain acidity, direct press the bunches with pneumatic presses, ferment with selected yeasts. The blend comes from different vintages. Second fermentation takes place in autoclaves and the wine then remains on its lees for 12 months rather than a shorter time seen in most charmat method made wines.

The texture of Ouro was lovely as were the aromas and flavors, made from the signature Brazilian blend of grapes, it was a showcase of what Brazil can do.

Cooperative wineries are very large in Brazil. We visited an impressive one called Aurora, located in the center of Bento. The winery was started in 1875 by Italian immigrants and today counts over 1100 members. They have a huge facility and are Brazil’s largest winery. They made a host of sparkling wines including the three above. This shows just how popular sparkling wines are in Brazil.

Starting in 2002, Brazil began to embrace denominations of origin (denominação de Origem). Today, Brazil has one Appellation of Origin, AO Vale dos Vinhedos and four Geographical Indications (Indicação de Procedēncia) which someday may be made into AOs – GI Pinto Bandeira, GI Monte Belo, GI Farroupilha, and GI Altos Montes. All of these denominations are found within Serra Gaúcha.

Brazil has about 150 wineries of a large dimension and more than 1,100 small farms, approximately two hectares per family.

Other sparklers that impressed me during our visit were these two from Flavio Pizzato, an amazing winemaker in Vale do Vinhedos. The two below from Miolo were classic and showed also the impressive Rosé sparklers in Brazil.

Miolo, and of course, Cava Geisse which only makes traditional method sparklers. These last can be found in the United States and are well worth the money. I will do a separate piece on these wines this week. Last but definitely not least is Valduga, a winery I loved that sold a sparkler as Glera which I very much appreciated rather than calling it Prosecco, even in Brazil.

Brazilian sparklers should be on your radar, harder to source, but worth the search. Total wine offers a line made by Salton called Alma at less than $7 a bottle which is actually fantastic called Alma. I polished off a bottle last night with my sister while watching a MusiCares Special Tribute to Bruce Springsteen (We are New Jersey girls at heart despite our love for languages and Europe), the Beatles Documentary called Get Back, and Miracle on 34th Street. One of those nights where there is something for everyone, just like in Brazil.

Our pairings with films were more spectacular than our food pairings but these sparklers work with anything from pasta to veggies to carrots and humus.

Join our Wine Pairing Weekend group on Twitter at 11 am EST/8 am PST on Saturday, January 8. Just follow the hashtag #WinePW. Don’t hesitate to speak up and tell us you are there.

Meanwhile, here’s what the group has planned:

  • Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm bubbles over about Celebrating Little Christmas in Michigan with a Local Bubbly
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla sabers open Gelukkige Nuwe Jaar with Pannekoeke + Boschendal Brut Rosé
  • Linda from My Full Wine Glass cracks open Cava: Because everybody needs a go-to bubbly
  • Martin at Enofylz Wine Blog pops the cork on Sparkling Wine from Chablis? Oui! Val de Mer Brut Nature Rosé
  • Anna Maria of Unraveling Wine toasts us with 10 Best Greek Sparkling Wines with Pairings #WinePW
  • David at Cooking Chat Food disgorges Baked Fiesta Dip with Mexican Bubbly
  • Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles riddles with Bubbles by any other name…Sparkling wines from all over the globe
  • Jennifer of Vino Travels charms with Upcoming the Game with Asolo Prosecco
  • Lisa at The Wine Chef adds dosage with Dive Into the OG Bubbly With Blanquette de Limoux #WinePW
  • Nicole at Somm’s Table gets cagey with Re-introducing Cava!
  • Gwendolyn from Wine Predator adds the crown with Sparkling Wine Secrets from Around the World
  • Susannah from Avvinare sparkles with Brazilian sparklers come of age
  • Terri at Our Good Life shares Favorite Bubbles from Around the World
  • Andrea The Quirky Cork celebrates with A Vertical Tasting of Vinkara’s Yaşasın #WinePW

14 comments

    • Wendy, Until I visited I too had no idea but it works with the people bubbly, celebratory, joyous. That’s how I felt about the country and how I always feel about sparkling wines.

  1. I have only learned a bit about Brazilian Wines and I will look for your suggested wine at Total Wine! So affordable and I think I have a new goal to taste as many bubbles as possible from around the world!

    • I love your new goal. Yes Alma is so inexpensive at Total. Try to get one of the other producers too, I do not think you will be unhappy. Cheers, Susannah

  2. Martin, Thanks for reading this piece. Geisse is imported and so are a few others. They don’t get the traction they deserve but I hope that changes soon. The producers I mentioned are all available in different states. I am not sure who is available in CA but I can check on wine-searcher for you :). Cheers, Susannah

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