Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Report from: Brazil Tasting – September 14, 2007

If I asked you to name the top 5 largest wine producers in the Southern Hemisphere I’d bet you the farm you wouldn’t get all 5. You’d probably come up with Australia (no.2), maybe Chile (no.3) and South Africa (no.4). You might be surprised to find out the number one spot belongs to Argentina – if you think about Argentina at all and if you did you didn’t think it was number one. But I’d be really surprised if you guessed the number five slot. Well, from the title of this tasting I bet you’ve figured it out; but would you have guessed it had I not been attending a Brazilian wine tasting? I didn’t think so.

Currently Brazil has about 900 wineries and 87,000 hectares under vine – it truly is enough to boggle the mind … Brazil? The land of diminishing rain forests and expanding cattle herds; the land that exported the idea for the smoothest waxing job in the world makes wine … who’d a thunk it? But then again it seems every country in the world makes wine in one form or another; the real question is: do they make good wine? And if so, how do I put my hands on some?

The good news is Brazil does make some pretty good wines, and as with any country it’s hit and miss, but thankfully on this day it was more hit than miss. Price is always an issue as I see it anyway, and the real adventure is finding values wherever you look (under-priced wine that tastes like the overpriced stuff) … Brazil is no different. With the Canadian dollar currently trading at par with its U.S. counterpart, giving you the price in U.S. funds will give you an idea of what we would be paying for it here. The bad news is that there are precious few bottles of Brazilian wine on LCBO shelves (1 to be exact, according to a recent search at LCBO.ca under Brazil); but Brazil is looking to change all that. Having already entered into the U.K., German and U.S. markets it’s time to turn their attention north of the 49th parallel setting their sights on our shores. Here is what I found while tasting some of what Brazil has to offer.

Wines/Grapes of Choice …

Of the grape varieties that do the best in Brazil I would say Cabernet Sauvignon is king. Their hot climate is great for this later ripening grape. The lone Cab Franc I tasted was also very good – nothing like our Ontario versions, but then again we are comparing apples with oranges (re: climate). Also quite well received were other heat loving grapes like Malbec and Tannat; plus many of their blends, dominated by Cab Sauv, were exceptional, if a little pricey.

Formal Tasting ...

The day was broken into a sit down, formal tasting of seven wines and a walk around portion for tasting the rest. Among the outstanding wines at the formal tasting were:

Don Laurindo Gran Reserva 2002 – 80% Tannat and 20% Ancilota (Italian variety) – chocolate, mocha and red fruit on the nose, while smooth and flavourful in the mouth; but it’s a drink now wine and at $105 USD it’s a little pricey for a quaffer.

There was the Pisani & Panceri Gran Reserva 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, a pretty good bargain compared to the wine above at $18.50 USD – a little green on the nose with pepper, nutmeg and other spices – they all materialized in the mouth except, thankfully, for the greenness, which turned chocolaty – and that’s a good trade any day.

Also making my top three for the formal part of the program was Boscato’s Gran Reserva 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, with it’s coffee and black fruit nose and smooth black fruit, anise and mocha mouth … though the $80 USD price tag was not its best feature.

Moving out onto the floor – (the other wines) ...

Seven wineries and their principles made the trek to Canada and each had at least one wine that was impressive.

Casa Valduga had a 2004 Cabernet Franc that showed wonderful bramble and black fruit characteristics, made from 30 year old vine and aged 6 months in French oak ($13.99 USD); their Chardonnay ($14.99 USD) was the best white wine of the show – although, truth be told, there were very few whites on display.

Miolo Wine Group had a 50/50 blend of Cab Sauv and Merlot called Lote 43 2004 ($35.00 USD) – a great blend that had red fruit, chocolate and blackberry – with some tannin adding heft and backbone, but still smooth and delicious. Miolo’s other blend added Tannat to aforementioned mix (I different percentages of course) and was from the “stellar” 2005 Vintage (which was rated as the best in Brazil – ever) … the wine is called Gran Lovara 2005 (no price given) … rich supple and age-worthy. I have no doubt the wine will retail for $50+.

Vinhos Mioranza had the best Sparkling Moscatel of the show (lots of sparkling wine is made in Brazil, both sweet and dry). This Asti-like wine was deliciously fruity with pears and peaches on the nose and a sweet grapefruity-grapiness in the mouth ($17.99 USD), a real ladies wine, as plenty of them lined up for seconds and thirds.

Finally, a winery called Pizzato impressed me the most with reasonable prices ($14.99 - $24.99 USD) and quality wines throughout the line. The Fausto Cabernet Sauvignon ($10.99) with its good red fruit and tannins created a good mouthfeel with a touch of dryness on the tongue. Their Merlot Rosé ($10.99) with its cherries and strawberries on the nose and raspberries with some mild citrus sprinkle on the tongue – a hint of tartness grabbed the palate, but in a good way. Their Concentus 2004 ($24.99) a blend of Merlot, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon, has red fruit, cherries, cinnamon, spices and herbs on the nose, and dark fruit, black cherries, with a touch of raisin and cedar and some drying tannins in the mouth.

You may be asking, “what about Merlot?” Well yes they have Merlot in Brazil and everybody makes a single varietal, but it’s lacking something that’s almost indescribable – flat, overly extracted, lacking in fruit character … it’s just something that doesn’t sit right. Though it is important to note that most of the blends that contained Merlot in their mix were good, well structured wines. Of the straight Merlots tried, Pizzato again proved they were the right winery for the job. They showed that Merlot can be made properly in this part of the world. Their fruit forward 2004 Merlot Reserva ($14.99 USD) was voted best Merlot in Brazil (feint praise according to my above standards) but this Merlot had great cocoa, blackberries and cassis to go along with its fruit forwardness.

Brazil makes wine … I’m serious – and for the most part it’s very good wine. Let’s hope we start seeing some of the more reasonably priced stuff here; and then we’ll be another in the line of countries converted to the Brazilian way of drinking and not just waxing.

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