This most populous Portuguese-speaking South American country (190 million) has a chequered history in wine production and consumption.

European settlers, mostly Italians, were the first to plant vineyards to make commercial quantities of wine.

The catholic church missionaries were the first to plant vineyards for the production of communion services but the tropical climate of the country forced the planting of North American hybrids like catawba, aurora, and the like which yield undrinkable wine.

In the 20th century, courageous entrepreneurs planted vineyards using improved and acclimatized vitis vinifera family grape varieties i.e cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, pinot noir, syrah, tannat, ancelota and aragonez a.k.a tempranillo in Spain for red wines, and chardonnay, chenin blanc, malvasia, muscat, sauvignon blanc, riesling italico and prosecco for white wines.

Brazilian per capita wine consumption is minuscule, 2 ½ litres, compared to Portugal 55 litres, and even when compared to Canada 11 litres.

The population prefers first and foremost sparking wine, followed by red and white. Dessert wine consumption is negligible.

Most Brazilian wine drinkers (75 percent) prefer drinking Chilean, Argentinean, Italian and French wines. But wine drinking is becoming trendy, especially with the young generation and idle class families. Presently, 88 000 hectares of vineyards exist in six defined regions:

Serra Gaucha (640 metres above sea level); Serra do Sudeste (420 metres a.s.l); Campanha (210 metres a.s.l); Planalto Catarinense (1415 metres a.s.l), and Sao Fransisco Valley (1360 metres a.s.l), which is located 8 degrees south of the equator and grows grapes mostly for sparkling wines. In this region two crops per year are harvested.

Planalto catarinense is south and west of Sao Paulo, the industrial and economic heart of the country.

Serra Gaucha is just north of Porto Alegre and Campanha on teh Atlantic Coast bordering Uruguay.

There are laws governing labelling, for example 85 percent of a varietal wine must be the variety indicated, and vintage wines must contain 100 percent of that vintage.

I have learned from winemakers that inspectors visit wineries unannounced and regularly verify the claims made on labels. Although there are well over 1100 wineries, only a few export, the largest being Miolo.

Brazilian wines are moderately alcoholic 12 – 14 percent ABV, well made, fruity and balanced.

Framers are still trying to field the best yield levels in vineyards for complexity and concentration of varietal aromas.

Winery equipment is modern and the wines are competently made, some to world standards.

Considering the fact that only 30 years ago the industry was using visits labrusca grapes, and producing inferior quality wine, the progress is phenomenal and appreciated by Brazilians and foreigners.

Recently, 12 Brazilian wineries presented their wine in Toronto to the trade.

All told, 22 wines were resented. Of those, eight were dry sparkling, two white, 10 red, and two sweet sparking.

The following wineries were represented – Courmayeur, Don Guerino, Dom Candido, Vinicola Cordelier, Vinicola Campestre, Geisse, Sanjo, Santo Emilio, Lidio Carraro, Miolo, and Pizzato.

Grande Vindima Quorum sparkling wine from Lidio Carraro and Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from Miolo were impressive, others quite well made, flavourful, balanced, and very enjoyable with low acidity levels.

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