AS HOST for the next World Cup and Olympic Games, Brazil will soon have the eyes of the world on it.
Sport, however, is not the only thing heightening our interest – many feel Brazil’s wines are the next big thing. The standard, especially among sparkling wines, is impressively high.
Their scarcity hitherto was partly because only small parts of the country have the climate usually associated with producing quality wine. In general, vines do best between 30 and 50 degrees from the equator (north or south) and most of Brazil lies outside those bands. So wine production is largely limited to close to the border with Uruguay.
In spite of these challenges, several multi-nationals have had a long-standing presence in Brazil – 40 years in the case of Moët & Chandon. The influence of large operations has rubbed off on the family producers that form the backbone of Brazil’s wine trade. One effect is increased use of internationally attractive grape varieties like pinot noir.
Many of those small, indigenous businesses have banded together into co-operatives, and one of the biggest is Vinicola Aurora – with over 1,000 member families. The 2012 Aurora Reserve Chardonnay (around £10, Stevens Garnier) is a good example of their handiwork, with a freshness that strikes immediately. The acidity is more lime than lemon, with an appealing savoury undercurrent. Mid-palate, the traditional chardonnay characteristics surface, introducing a toasty backdrop and tropical fruit flavours.
Among the reds, I was impressed by 2011 Basso Monte Paschoal Tannat Virtus (£8.88, www.redsquirrelwine.com), with its bramble flavours nicely rounded out by a spicy vanilla finish.
Stepping up a notch, the intense minty 2005 Pizzato Concentus (£24.99, www.southamericanwinesonline.co.uk) adds merlot and cabernet to the tannat grape. Together they deliver mocha-influenced mulberry flavours topped off with a slight prickle but supplemented by touches of earthiness that provide a contrasting framework.
The real eye-openers come when sparkle goes into the bottle. Try Casa Valduga Domno Ponte Nero Brut (£16.99, Exel Wines), a non-vintage fizz with a touch of riesling among the pinot noir and chardonnay. As it uses the same method of fermentation as prosecco, the apple-crumble-style acidity comes through but is given a toasty garnish that adds depth.
A pound or two more lands you a vintage sparkler made using the ‘traditional method’ – there are prohibitions on using ‘methode champenoise’ these days. With pinot noir and chardonnay components, 2009 Miolo Brut Millesime (£15.99 in a case of six, www.simplywinesdirect.com) is delightfully balanced. While the brioche backdrop is more pronounced, a restrained acidity integrates well with the apple and lemon. Opt for a rosé and the subtle strawberry fruit of the pinot noir-derived 2010 Cave Geisse Cave Amadeu Rosé Brut (£19.69, www.finewinesellers.co.uk), with its gentle acidity and lasting bubbles.
With help from specialised techniques and irrigation work, grapes are now grown in the São Francisco valley. The wines give no sense of coming from quasi-desert terrain and this latitude allows two harvests a year. Seek out 2012 Rio Sol Chenin Blanc Viognier (£8.99, The Fine Wine Company), which faithfully delivers the banana (chenin) and apricot (viognier) flavours of more orthodox growing areas but embellishes them with a floral smoothness and amazing levels of acidity.
2011 Bordeaux Blanc France, 12%
With 70% sauvignon blanc in the blend, it is no surprise to find fresh, lemon-centred acidity that is more restrained than Marlborough versions and develops a tangerine-edged depth. Semillon adds fullness and polish to create a tasty and uncomplicated great-value white. £4.19, Aldi
2011 MontGras Reserva Carmenere Colchagua Valley, Chile, 14%
This is a full red from Chile’s signature grape that contains only limited tannin. Chocolate on the finish rounds out the soft plum and bramble fruit but adds a suggestion of minerality. £6.99, Co-op