ALL eyes will be on Brazil this week as the World Cup draws to its finale. So what will you be celebrating with – a sparkling Brazilian moscato or Serra Gaucha pinot noir perhaps?
Brazil is the fifth largest wine producer in the southern hemisphere and South America’s third largest after Chile and Argentina. Despite a long viticultural history since 1532, it has lagged well behind its neighbours (even Uruguay) in terms of wine quality – and it still does.
Less than 10 per cent of Brazil’s 68,000 hectares of vineyards have classic ‘vinifera’ grapes, the remainder is made up of American and hybrid vines used for table grapes. Most of the quality vinifera grapes are in Serra Gaucha in Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil, first grown by Italian immigrants in 1875, but this area has a tricky climate: twice as wet as Bordeaux.
Nowadays, Brazil has five other wine-growing regions with very diverse climates. arid Sao Francisco in the far north-east; Bahia and Pernambuco, where M&S’s Coconova fizz hails from and Planalto Catarinense in the east, Brazil’s highest and coldest region, where frozen grapes are picked to make icewine.
The best new area seems to be Campanha, on the Uruguay border. It has a wider temperature range from 12 to 24 degrees, with cooler nights to retain essential acidity in the grapes, fundamental when growing grapes for still and sparkling wines.
And the Brazilians do love their fizz. Some 38 per cent of their wines are sparkling. With the Italian connection, many are sweet Moscato styles similar to Asti Spumante or Moscato d’Asti, but the quality of their dry fizz made in the same way as champagne, is very slowly improving: Casa Valduga is your best bet here, although it would struggle in comparison to fizz from other countries.
Of Brazil’s 1,162 wineries producing 40 million litres of wine annually, just 16 sell to the UK. Several are available at www.gobrazilwines.com, the only Brazilian specialist importer. With the World Cup and Olympics in mind, Brazil has notched up 200 per cent increase in export sales to the UK in six months of this year compared with the same period in 2013 – and the UK is their number one export market.
CASA VALDUGA ARTE TRADITIONELLE BRUT 2012 (£14.99, Aitken Wines, Dundee; Provenance Wines, Edinburgh; Selfridges, London)
A safe team player with 60 per cent chardonnay and 40 per cent pinot noir in the blend, made in the same way as champagne: acceptably crisp dry and refreshing; one of Brazil’s better efforts used to toast Prince Harry and the Olympic committee in Brazil. 11.5per cent BEST BUY
COCONOVA SPARKLING BRUT
NV Miolo (£8.99, Marks & Spencer)
Starts well with a good sprint, moderately crisp and dry, but lacks refinement. A youthful player from the newly developed Sao Francisco area, it needs more experience in the game. 12per cent
CARNIVAL SPARKLING MOSCATO NV (£8.99, Marks & Spencer)
My preferred pick of those on the sweeter side of the pitch, if you have to have one. More balanced, drier finish, slightly less sickly sweet. 7.5per cent
I HEART BRASIL SPARKLING MOSCATO NV (£9.99, Tesco; Rhythm & Booze; Londis; Budgens)
It might bring sunshine and a splash of colour with its passionfruit flavours, but this cutely named wine ends up too sweet on the finish. 8per cent
LIDIO CARRARO FIFA FACES 2012 (£16, Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh)
The best of the three official FIFA wines: this chardonnay, moscato and riesling italico blend is acceptable for quaffing, but at its high price it really lacks refinement. 12per cent
WAITROSE BRAZILIAN CHARDONNAY 2013 (£8.99, Waitrose)
Not sure why Waitrose picked this player as it is very poor: worst on the pitch. Unbalanced, lacks acidity and flabby. 13per cent
CASA VALDUGA LEOPOLDINA CHARDONNAY 2012 (£13.49, Waitrose)
Much better effort from Serra Gaucha area with better integration, depth in the field and the highest scorer on Waitrose’s team. 12per cent
PIZZATO FAUSTO UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2012 (£12-£13, www.gobrazilwines.com)
Tropical fruit notes, juicy fruity, a lean athletic type from Serra Gaucha’s coolish climate and clay soils; with a good sprint to the finish. A high flyer, now served in British Airways business class. 12.5per cent BEST BUY
ARAUCARIA RIESLING/PINOT GRIGIO 2013 Miolo (£8.49, Marks & Spencer)
Plenty of drive, refreshingly crisp, pear and greengage flavours and still going well at the finish. Highest scorer amongst the whites. 12.5per cent
AURORA PINOT NOIR 2012 (£9.95, Vinos, Edinburgh)
A good all-round performance from such a tricky grape; soft well-toned fruits on the palate; this player shows potential. 12.5per cent BEST BUY
INTENSO TEROLDEGO 2013 Salton (£9.99, Marks & Spencer)
A surprise from the Italian side: indigenous Italian grape teroldego with its dark, cherry pomegranate and herby notes showing some promise, but lacks stamina. 13per cent
WAITROSE BRAZILIAN MERLOT 2013 (£8.99, Waitrose)
A bit flabby, lacks vibrancy and tires early – but put in a slightly better performance than Waitrose’s very poor Riqueza pinot noir. 12per cent
• Join Rose’s Beginners wine classes in Edinburgh from £36, www.rosemurraybrown.com