The Secret Brazilian Wine Region You’ve Never Heard Of But Will Want To Visit
Posted: May 01, 2018
Here are the ins and outs of visiting Serra Gaucha in southern Brazil.
For a traveler, there's nothing more invigorating than swimming against the stream, especially when the figurative “stream” leads to a literal oasis of sparkling wine. Such was the case on a recent trip to Brazil during Carnival, when the masses descended upon Rio for caipirinhas — and I headed to Bento Gonccalves for chardonnay, pinot noir, and merlot.
Bento Conçalves, about 900 miles south of Rio, is the epicenter of Serra Gaúcha, Brazil's largest and most important wine region. (The area produces around 85% of the country's fine wine.) If, when you think of South American wine, Argentina and Chile come to mind long before Brazil, you're not alone. Mika Bulmash, the New York City-based founder of Wine for the World, an import company that seeks out rising-star regions, explains that Brazil's vinhos remain under the radar because fine-wine production itself is relatively new to the country.
“For a long time [this area] was devoted to the production of ordinary, common table wines, which were consumed domestically,” she said. “About 40 years ago, the region began realizing the fantastic potential for the production of premium sparkling wines.”
Since then, Brazilian bubbles have earned more than 1,000 medals in international competitions. With that recognition, tourism is sure to follow — and Serra Gaúcha is ready. The “secret” nature of the destination is not by design; wandering oenophiles are welcome. The oversized wine barrel inscribed with “You Are Entering the World of Wine” at the entrance to Bento Gonçalves is proof of that.
Once you arrive — via a flight to Porto Alegre, followed by a two-hour drive — you'll find a wine region unlike any other. At times the terrain is reminiscent of Tuscany, but with palm trees, cacti, waterfalls, and parrots flying overhead. The wine, says Diego Bertolini of Wines of Brasil, is much like the local way of life: “fun, fresh and fruity.”