Brazil’s Medal Worthy Wines

20151201_174556amphitheatre of vines at Casa Valduga in Vale dos Vinhedos

I’m thrilled the Olympic Games in Rio went so well, exceeding expectations. I am happy to report that another potential source of pride for Brazilians is the fact that some excellent wines—yes, even medal worthy—are now being made there. Surprised? So was I.

I was fortunate to travel to the center of Brazil’s fine wine production last December, on a trip sponsored by Wines of Brazil. The trip was led by Evan Goldstein, Master Sommelier and author of the terrific Wines of South America. I’m a huge fan of Evan and have really enjoyed traveling with him in the past. I therefore took it on faith when he told me Brazilian wine country was worth a trip. I had tasted some okay Brazilian reds and fairly good sparkling wines prior to this trip that in no way prepared me for how excellent some of Brazil’s top wines actually are.

Brazil’s fine wine country—based in the more temperate southern end of the country–is also stunningly lush and beautiful, blessed with a few of the most gorgeous vineyards I have ever visited. The best of the wines have excellent fruit quality, relatively low alcohol and good balancing acidity. The food is also delicious there and the people warm and delightful, of course.

Unfortunately, few of Brazil’s finest wines are imported to this country, and those that are are currently available primarily in only a few states on the East Coast. Hopefully this will change in the coming years. I have indicated below, with my tasting notes, which ones are available in the U.S.

Background

Wine production in Brazil, spurred in large part by the many Italian immigrants in the south, who brought knowledge and grape cuttings with them, dates back to the mid-1800s. The production of fine wine, however, based on vitis vinifera grapes, really only got going in the 1970s, picking up steam with a growing number of boutique producers since the 1990s. A concerted effort to improve quality has been underway since 2000.

That said, the vast majority of the country’s wine production—over 80%–is still very ordinary “vinho de mesa.” That translates as “table wine,” which makes it sound higher quality than it really is. Much of it is made with North American grapes, vitis labrusca, and hybrids, which have been widely planted in Brazil’s humid climate because they fared much better than vitis vinifera, the type of grapes from which fine wine is made.

Nonetheless, vitis vinifera varieties like Merlot, and the grapes most commonly used for sparkling wine–Chardonnay and Pinot Noir–have been planted in increasing amounts in the southernmost Brazilian state, Rio Grande do Sul.

The center of fine wine production in that state is the region of Serra Gaúcha, particularly in the area extending south and west of the city of Bento Gonçalves. This area, called Vale dos Vinhedos–Brazil’s only denominação de origen (DO)–is essentially the Napa of Brazil, home to the vast majority of the most notable fine wine producers.

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fog over the Perini vineyard in Farroupilha, an area that specializes in Muscat

This was where our trip was focused, with side trips to a couple of other important areas in Serra Gaúcha–Pinto Bandeira, source of grapes for Brazil’s best sparkling wines and an indicação de procedência (IP); and Farroupilha, which was recently approved as an IP for moscato. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time for us to visit another up and coming region for fine wine production lying further south, along Uruguay’s border. The two wine growing areas there are Capanha Gaucha and Serro do Sudeste. We did, however, get to try a number of very good wines made from grapes grown in those areas.

Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the sparkling wines from the top three sparkling producers. I was also delighted by the large variety of grapes planted–which is surprising given the relatively small amount of fine wine produced here relative to the dominant South American producers, Chile and Argentina. This includes the standard French varieties, as well as more unusual varieties, like Egiodola and Arinaroa. One also finds Iberian varieties, like Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional, and Italian, including Glera, Moscato and Teroldego.

Medal Winners

So after a week of sampling Brazilian wines from our base in Bento Gonçalves, which producers do I think are the very best–deserving of gold and silver medals?

No one wants a bronze medal any more, except in the Olympics, so I won’t bother nominating a producer for that–I’ll only indicate a few other wineries that I think are among the top five or so of Brazil’s best.

Gold: Don Giovanni

20151203_162620vineyards at Don Giovanni in Pinto Bandeira

My gold medalist makes a small amount of dry wine–most notably a wonderful Chardonnay–but its production is largely devoted to what I think is some of the very best methode traditionelle sparkling wine I’ve tasted outside of Champagne.

Don Giovanni is based in Pinto Bandeira. Their sparkling wines are so profoundly good that I would buy them every year if only they were available here in the U.S.

Don Giovanni was founded in 1982 but started making sparkling wine in 1997. The owners are Ayrton and Beatriz Giovannini, and the winemaker and viticulturalist is Luciano Vian. They produce about 10,000 cases of wine per year–under up to 14 different labels–of which about 80% is sparkling.

The winery sits on one of the most strikingly beautiful vineyards I’ve ever seen, which includes tall trees, carved stone markers and lots of thriving hydrangeas. The property includes an artistically appointed, family-run guest house and restaurant, which I would strongly recommend as a place to stay on a visit to Brazilian wine country.

You can see all of my tasting notes and ratings for their wines below. My single favorite of their sparkling bottlings is the Ouro, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that is aged 36 months on the lees. I rated it 94 points and it is savory, autolytic, hazelnut heaven. I also very much love the Stravaganzza Brut, which is aged one year on lees, and the Nature, with less than one gram of dosage and aged two years sur lie. Both of these I rated 93+ points.

Silver: Lidio Carraro

My silver medalist is Lidio Carraro, named after its owner, an influential and pioneering viticulturalist. While his two sons, Giovanni and Juliano, are involved in making the wine, they benefit a lot from the active involvement of consulting winemaker, Monica Rossetti, who still makes wine in Italy as well. The animated and very articulate Rossetti has worked with Carraro since 1998.

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Lidio Carraro consulting winemaker Monica Rossetti

One of the distinctive features of winemaking here is the absence of any oak whatsoever. Longer macerations and bottle aging are used to supply the texture and firm tannins that oak might otherwise help provide. The focus is on the wines’ fruit quality, which is very appealing and complex.

Lidio Carraro has seven hectares in production in Vale dos Vinhedos, and another 38 hectares in Serro do Sudeste’s Encruzilhada do Sul region, where Lidio pioneered plantings in 2000. Lidio was also the first producer of Merlot in Vale dos Vinhedos, and his winery was the first in Brazil to use gravity flow winemaking.

Lidio Carraro was chosen, via a competition, to produce a line of wines for the World Cup Games that Brazil hosted in 2014. This line is called Faces, and it is basically the winery’s entry level offering. They were also chosen to make wine for the Olympics and did so again using the Faces label, producing not only a red, white and rosé, but also three different sparkling wines.

For me, the most impressive wines in the portfolio are the Elos Cabernet/Malbec blend, another red blend called Quorum, a varietal bottling of Teroldego, and a terrific Tannat. I scored the latter 94+ points, and it compares favorably to the very best Tannats I tasted in nearby Uruguay that I reported on here and here.

Other Top Producers

The other leading producers for me based on what we tasted are Cave Geisse, Pizzato, Perini and Peterlongo. Cave Geisse and Peterlongo make superlative sparkling wines, while Pizzato and Perini produce not only good sparkling wines but also some excellent dry reds. Please see below for brief profiles of these wineries and tasting notes.

I have also profiled below Brazil’s three largest producers–the giant cooperative Aurora, Miolo and Salton. Each of these make some very good wines, along with a large quantity of average and mediocre wines.

In the tasting notes below, I have only included producers responsible for at least some wines I scored in the high 80s and above. During our trip, we did taste wine from others, including producers based in the equatorial wine region of São Francisco, where the vines never go dormant unless artificially induced, and two harvests can easily be pulled annually from each plot. I found virtually all of these wines to be pretty mediocre.

Aurora

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    Aurora wines made for export

    Aurora is a giant cooperative–Brazil’s biggest wine producer, commanding over 30% of the domestic market for still wine. It was originally founded in 1931 by 16 Italian immigrant families. At one time it had as many as 1300 members, but there are now 1100 with an average of 2.6 hectares of vineyards per member. Members get paid 8% more than government established minimums, and must follow an extensive rule book regarding everything from safety and pesticide use to harvest dates and yields. They have their own grape nursery for members, which propagates 30 varieties and three different rootstocks. The co-op also owns 16 hectares of prime vineyards in Pinto Bandeira, the source for some of their top wines.

    A team of 15 winemakers oversees the production of 45 million liters of wine per year. Less than 2% is exported, but that makes up 30% of Brazil’s wine exports. Marcus James was perhaps their best known brand name, before the name was sold to Constellation. It was briefly exported to the U.S. as “white Zinfandel” back in the early 1990s. They are now exporting to the U.S. under the Carnaval label wines that are known in Brazil as Procedencia, and producing some special bottlings for the U.S. market under the label Brazilian Soul. A higher end line under the label Pequenos Partilhas was designed for on-premise sales, and includes wines from Chile, Argentina and Uruguay as well as Brazil. The top wines I tasted were the 2014 Chardonnay Pinto Bandeira (92 points), an excellent NV Moscatel Espumante (92 points) and a Bordeaux-blend cuvee made in honor of the co-op’s 85th anniversary, that is allocated mainly to co-op members (92+ points).

    I see several Aurora wines listed on wine-searcher.com as being available in the U.S. That includes a Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat Reserva. Most widely available are red and white versions of the Carnaval Moscato. I rated the white version 88 points and it can be found for an average of $12. A place in Massachusetts carries the Brazilian Soul Chardonnay, which I rated 85+ points, for $6.

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  • 2014 Vinícola Aurora 85th Anniversary Cuvee Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very dark ruby color; aromatic, appealing, black currant, boysenberry, vanilla nose; medium bodied, delicious, black currant, cedar, black cherry palate with good balancing acidity; could use 2 years; medium-plus finish (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc; 13% alcohol; 10 months in French & American oak; barrel selection in honor of the Aurora Co-op’s 85th anniversary–bottles will be given to the co-op families) 92+ points
  • NV Vinícola Aurora Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light yellow color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; pear cream nose; light-medium bodied, tart pear cream, tart grapefruit, chalk palate with medium acidity; medium finish (100% Chardonnay, 20-30 days in tank, 10 grams dosage) 84 points
  • NV Vinícola Aurora Extra Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Pinto Bandeira
    Very light yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; autolytic, almond, almond cream, light hazelnut nose; tasty, tart pear cream, almond cream, mineral palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 10% Riesling Italico; 12.5% alcohol) 89 points
  • 2011 Vinícola Aurora Brut Rosé Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light medium orange pink color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; toast, beets nose; toast, roasted beets palate with medium acidity; medium finish (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Riesling Italico; 11.5% alcohol; 10.62 grams dosage; 6-7 months in tank) 84 points
  • 2014 Vinícola Aurora Cabernet Franc Pequenas Partilhas Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha Very dark purple red violet color; appealing, ripe black currant, blackberry, dried berry, light toast nose; medium bodied, tight, tart berry, tart black currant, toast palate with some balancing acidity; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (13% alcohol) 88+ points
  • 2011 Vinícola Aurora Cabernet Sauvignon Millésimé Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha Very dark purple red violet color; tart berry, toast, ripe black currant nose; medium bodied, tart berry, toast, ripe black currant palate; could use 1-plus year; medium finish (100% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% alcohol; 1 year in French & American oak) 87+ points
  • 2014 Vinícola Aurora Chardonnay Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Pinto Bandeira
    Light yellow color; aromatic, almond tart pear nose; medium bodied, tart pear, almond palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (12.5% alcohol; 3 months in new French oak) 92 points
  • 2015 Vinícola Aurora Chardonnay Brazilian Soul Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very light yellow color; light lemon cream nose; light-medium bodied, tart pear cream, lemon cream palate with medium acidity; medium finish (12% alcohol; 6.15 grams dosage) 85+ points
  • 2014 Vinícola Aurora Merlot Reserva Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Dark ruby color; tart plum, black fruit, berry, light cedar nose; tart plum, tart berry, cedar palate with medium acidity; medium finish (12.5% alcohol; 6 months in French & American oak) 85+ points
  • NV Vinícola Aurora Moscatel Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very light green-tinged yellow color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; aromatic, orange blossom, ripe honeydew melon, ripe pear nose; tasty, creamy textured, tart pear, light orange cream palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (7.5% alcohol; 80 grams residual sugar; great value at about $10) 92 points
  • NV Vinícola Aurora Moscato Carnavál Brazil
    Very light yellow color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; aromatic, orange blossom, ripe green melon nose; creamy textured, tasty, orange cream, lime cream, ripe green melon palate with some balancing acidity; medium finish (7.5% alcohol; 80 grams residual sugar) 88 points
  • 2014 Vinícola Aurora Pinot Noir Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Pinto Bandeira Medium dark cherry red color; aromatic, black cherry, black raspberry, berry nose; medium bodied, black cherry, black raspberry, toast palate with near medium acidity; could use 1-plus year; medium-plus finish ((13% alcohol; 6 months in French oak) 88+ points
  • 2014 Vinícola Aurora Tannat Brazilian Soul Premium Selection Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul
    Very dark ruby color; black currant, tart blackberry nose; black currant, tart blackberry palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (13% alcohol; 10 months in 3d use French & American oak, 50/50) 86+ points

Cave Geisse

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    Mario Geisse came from Chile in 1976 to start up Moet & Chandon’s sparkling wine operation in Brazil, Chandon Brazil. He left and started his own winery in 1979. Mario and son Daniel grow the grapes for their label in Pinto Bandeira, the IP for sparkling wine that Geisse helped pioneer. We unfortunately weren’t able to visit Cave Geisse, as Mario was away, but I made a point of sampling two of their bottlings while I was there, including their signature Nature Terroir, which I bought at a wine shop in the farmers’ market in Porto Allegre on the last night of our trip.

  • 2011 Cave Geisse Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very light yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; aromatic, autolytic, almond, almond cream, pear nose; medium bodied, poised, delicate, pear, mineral, tart apple palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (disgorged 2014) 92 points
  • NV Cave Geisse Nature Terroir Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light golden yellow color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; aromatic, autolytic, almond, pear gelee, almond cream nose; poised, delicate, almond, tart pear gelee, mineral palate with a sense of salinity and medium acidity; medium-plus finish (12.5% alcohol; 50/50 Chardonnay & Pinot Noir; 36 months on lees; disgorged 2015) 93 points

Dal Pizzol

  • 2013 Dal Pizzol Cabernet Franc Do Lugar Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, savory, tart red currant, dried red currant, dried herb, light oregano nose; elegant, roast red currant, dried red currant, oregano, dried herb, raspberry, pepper palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (13% alcohol) 92+ points

Don Giovanni

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  • NV Don Giovanni Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light yellow color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; aromatic, lifted, cream, almond cream, vanilla nose; elegant, cream, almond cream, hazelnut palate with minerality, salinity and medium acidity; long finish (75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir; 12.6% alcohol; 5.54 TA, pH 3.36, 6 grams dosage; 24 months sur lees) 93 points
  • NV Don Giovanni Brut Rosé Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Pinto Bandeira
    Light salmon color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; tart dried orange, almond nose; tasty, roses, dried roses, dried tart plum, tart cherry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (50% Merlot, 40% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay; 12 months en tirage) 91+ points
  • 2014 Don Giovanni Chardonnay Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Pinto Bandeira
    Slightly hazy light lemon yellow color; light almond, pear, light pineapple nose; medium bodied, poised, fresh, lemon gelee, almond, lightly saline palate with medium acidity, showing pineapple and lemon zest on finish; medium-plus finish (12.6% alcohol) 93 points
  • NV Don Giovanni Nature Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Pinto Bandeira
    Very light yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; aromatic, autolytic, almond, almond cream nose; delicate, fresh, very tart lemon, almond, mineral, saline palate with scintillating medium acidity; long finish (75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir; 12.6%; TA 5.08, pH 3.30; 24 months sur lees) 93+ points
  • NV Don Giovanni Ouro Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Pinto Bandeira
    Light golden yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; very aromatic, savory, autolytic, hazelnut, salt rising bread, light lemon oil nose; savory, very autolytic, hazelnut, mineral, almond, saline palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir; 12.8% alcohol; pH 3.42, TA 6.05; 8 grams dosage; 36 months en tirage) 94 points
  • NV Don Giovanni Stravaganzza Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; appealing, pear cream, almond cream nose; delicate, creamy textured, almond cream, tart pear cream, lemon cream palate with bright medium acidity; medium-plus finish (75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir; 12.6% alcohol; pH 3.6, 6.06 TA, 11 grams dosage; 12 months sur lees) 93+ points

Don Laurindo

  • 2009 Don Laurindo Merlot Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Bricking very dark ruby color; savory, tart black fruit, black cherry nose; medium bodied, maturing, black plum, black cherry palate with some balancing acidity; medium finish (12% alcohol) 88 points

Lidio Carraro

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    A few Lidio Carraro wines are available in the U.S. A few vintages of the Dádivas Chardonnay, including the 2013 (RJ91+ points) can be found for an average of $18.The 2013 Agnus Merlot is available for $17, and the 2006 Quorum is available several places for an average of $42.

  • 2013 Lidio Carraro Chardonnay Dádivas Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra do Sudeste
    Light yellow color; fresh, lemon gelee, pear cream nose; medium bodied, creamy textured, lemon, candied lemon peel palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish (14% alcohol; 8-10 months sur lees) 91+ points
  • NV Lidio Carraro Dádivas Espumante Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Very light green-tinged yellow color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; autolytic, light almond, green apple nose; creamy textured, green apple, mineral, citrus palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (12% alcohol; 85% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir, 5% Riesling Italico; charmat method) 88+ points
  • 2010 Lidio Carraro Elos Cabernet/Malbec Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, red currant, subtle herbs, tart cherry, red plum nose; medium bodied, fresh, tart red currant palate with medium acidity; could use 2-plus years and should go 15+; medium-plus finish (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec; 12.5% alcohol) 93 points
  • 2010 Lidio Carraro Elos Touriga Nacional/Tannat Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Very dark red violet color; aromatic, clove, cinnamon, roasted berry, licorice nose; tasty, fresh, velvety textured, licorice, roasted cherry, tart berry, tart red currant, spice, lightly saline palate with vibrant medium acidity; medium-plus finish (77% Touriga Nacional, 23% Tannat; 13% alcohol) 91+ points
  • 2014 Lidio Carraro Faces – The Wine of “2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil” Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light yellow color; appealing, pear, peach, orange blossom nose; fresh, tart pear, citrus, orange blossom palate with good balancing acidity; medium finish (50% Chardonnay, 30% Riesling Italico, 20% Moscato; 11.5% alcohol) 88+ points
  • 2014 Lidio Carraro Faces Rose – The Wine of “2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil” Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light salmon pink color; tart golden raspberry, golden currant nose; tart citrus, tart white grapefruit palate with medium-plus acidity; medium-plus finish (50% Pinot Noir, 35% merlot, 15% Touriga Nacional; 12.5% alcohol) 87+ points
  • 2014 Lidio Carraro Faces Red – The Wine of “2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil” Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra do Sudeste
    Medium ruby color; reduction, tart red currant, tart cherry, light cinnamon nose; tart red currant, reduction palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Tannat) 86 points
  • 2013 Lidio Carraro Merlot Agnvs Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra do Sudeste
    Medium dark red violet color; appealing, red currant, tart red berry nose; medium bodied, tart red currant, mineral, light herb palate with medium acidity; reminiscent of an Italian Merlot; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol) 90 points
  • 2008 Lidio Carraro Merlot Grande Vindima Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Dark red violet color; savory, tart red currant, oregano, dried herbs nose; medium bodied, poised, savory, fresh, tart red currant, oregano, dried herbs palate with medium acidity; long finish (13.5% alcohol) 93 points
  • 2014 Lidio Carraro Pinot Noir Dádivas Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra do Sudeste
    Medium cherry red color; reduction, tart cherry, strawberry, roses nose; silky textured, tart cherry, tart strawberry, rosehips, mineral palate with medium-plus acidity; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol) 91 points
  • 2008 Lidio Carraro Quorum Grande Vindima Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Dark red violet color; savory, smoky, tart red currant, dried provencal herbs, light smoke nose; medium bodied, fresh poised, complex, savory, tart red currant, dried provencal herbs, light smoke palate with lively medium-plus acidity; could use 2-3 years and should go 15-20; medium-plus finish (13% alcohol) 93+ points
  • 2010 Lidio Carraro Tannat Grande Vindima Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Opaque red violet color; aromatic, light coffee, roasted red plum, subtle spice nose; fresh, tasty, tight, complex, cherry, roasted red plum, light coffee, light white pepper, dried herb palate with lively medium acidity; could use 3-4 years and will go 20+; long finish (15.5% alcohol) 94+ points
  • 2013 Lidio Carraro Tempranillo Dádivas Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra do Sudeste
    Dark ruby color; reduction, coffee, tart red currant nose; silky textured, tart red currant, tart red berry, potpourri palate with medium acidity; could use 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (12.5% alcohol) 89 points
  • 2010 Lidio Carraro Teroldego Singular Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha Opaque red violet color; tart cherry, tart roasted plum, reduction, light pepper, cayenne nose; fresh, complex, tart red currant dried red berry, light cayenne palate with firm tannins and medium acidity; needs 4-plus years and should go 15-20; long finish (14% alcohol) 93 points

Miolo

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    Miolo Winery in Vale dos Vinhedos

    Miolo is another one of Brazil’s three biggest producers. It’s a partnership of three families. They also have wine projects in Europe, Chile and Argentina. They own over 2800 acres of vinifera vines in Brazil, and are the biggest landowner in Campanha. They control 40% of the domestic market in fine still wines and 15% of the sparkling wine market. The Miolo family dates their involvement in wine to the arrival of their ancestor in Bento Gonçalves in 1897, and his purchase of a 24-hectare vineyard plot known as Lote 43. For many years the family sold their grapes to co-ops. They started their own brand in 1991, with Merlot. They expanded rapidly, developing and executing on a tremendously successful business plan that has involved strategic partnerships.

    The wines produced from the Vale dos Vinhedos are sold under the Miolo label. The Miolo Winery is in a beautiful setting in the Vale dos Vinhedos, including a small lake. They were pioneers in the Campanha region, along the Uruguayan border, but wines from that region are sold under the name Seival. There are some very good wines here, at a variety of price points. My favorites were the Cuvée Giuseppe Merlot/Cabernet (92+ points), and a Cabernet with some age on it, 2006 Miolo Cabernet Sauvignon Quinta do Seival (92 points).

    I count seven different Miolo bottlings available in the U.S., including Lote 43 for $30. The 2015 Chardonnay is available for an average of $16. The Pinot and Pinot Reserva are available, along with both white and rosé versions of the Cuvée Tradition Brut. A Merlot is also available for $14.
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  • 2011 Miolo Brut Millésimé Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light green-tinged yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; fresh, tart pear, apple nose; poised, tasty, creamy textured, tart pear, lime cream, green apple, mineral palate with medium acidity; long finish (50/50 Chardonnay & Pinot Noir; 22 months on lees) 91+ points
  • 2006 Miolo Cabernet Sauvignon Quinta do Seival Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Campanha
    Dark ruby color; black currant, cedar nose; tasty, youthful, black currant, tart berry, cedar palate balanced with lively acidity; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol) 92 points
  • 2013 Miolo Chardonnay Cuvée Giuseppe Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light yellow color; lemon curd, mango nose; medium bodied, rich, lemon gelee, mango palate with balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (10 months in oak) 90+ points
  • 2015 Miolo Chardonnay Reserva Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light yellow color; fresh, lemon, light passion fruit, pear cream nose; tasty, fresh, ripe lemon, light vanilla palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (12.5% alcohol; TA 5.6, pH 3.18; 20% in new American oak for 3 months) 91+ points
  • 2013 Miolo Cuvée Giuseppe Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Opaque black red violet color; aromatic, black currant, red currant, cedar nose; tasty, tart black currant, cedar palate with sweet, fine tannins; could use 2 years and should go 15-20; long finish (60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon; 1 year in new French oak) 92+ points
  • NV Miolo Cuvée Tradition Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Very light yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; almond, apple, pear nose; medium bodied, rounded, creamy textured, pear palate; medium-plus finish (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir; 2013 tirage) 90 points
  • NV Miolo Cuvée Tradition Brut Rosé Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light salmon pink color; almond, raspberry, chalk nose; medium bodied, golden raspberry, berry palate; medium-plus finish (50/50 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir) 88 points
  • NV Miolo Grenache Bossa Nova Sparkling Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light pink color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; fruity, ripe red currant nose; creamy textured, tart red currant, tart red berry palate with medium acidity; medium finish (12% alcohol) 83 points
  • 2013 Miolo Merlot Terroir Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Very dark red violet color; blackberry, black currant, berry syrup nose; blackberry, black currant, berry syrup palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish 89 points
  • NV Miolo Moscato Brazilian Legends Girl of Ipanema Brazil, Vale do São Francisco
    Pale green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, lime, chalk, quinine nose; sweet, lime cream, fruit salad syrup palate with some acidity; medium finish 83 points
  • 2014 Miolo Pinot Noir Reserva Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Campanha
    Medium dark cherry red color; black cherry, beets, tart berry nose; black cherry, beets palate with balancing acidity; medium-plus finish 88 points
  • 2011 Miolo Quinta do Seival Castas Portuguesas Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Campanha
    Opaque red violet color; fresh, black raspberry, black cherry nose; medium bodied, tart red fruit, dried red berry, light cinnamon palate with good balancing acidity; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (50/50 Tinto Roriz/Touriga Nacional) 89 points
  • 2011 Miolo Reserva Lote 43 Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Opaque dark red violet color; aromatic, ripe black currant, blackberry, sweet green herb nose; medium bodied, ripe black currant, blackberry, black cherry palate with sweet tannins; should go 7 years; medium-plus finish (60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon) 90+ points
  • 2015 Miolo Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Campanha
    Light green-tinged yellow color; kiwi, light gooseberry nose; medium bodied, tart gooseberry, kiwi palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points
  • 2011 Miolo Seival Sesmarias Fronteira Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Campanha, Fronteira
    Very dark ruby color; aromatic, ripe black currant, blackberry, violets, clove nose; tasty, creamy textured, flavorful, black currant, blackberry palate with sweet, fine tannins; long finish 91+ points
  • NV Miolo Syrah Brut Rosé Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light pink color with abundant, steady, small bubbles; reticent, savory, tart cranberry, red berry nose; medium bodied, tart berry, roasted berry, beets, tar palate with medium acidity; medium finish (12% alcohol) 81 points
  • NV Miolo Terranova Brut Brazil, Vale do São Francisco
    Light yellow color with some steady, tiny bubbles; apple pie filling, orange blossom, ripe pear nose; medium-plus bodied, lush, creamy textured, baked pear, orange blossom palate with some balancing acidity; long finish (Moscatel; 7.5% alcohol) 89 points
  • 2013 Miolo Viognier RAR Collezione Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light lemon yellow color; poached pear, vanilla, white jasmine nose; tasty, poised, creamy textured, white jasmine, light vanilla, pear palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (1 year in French oak) 91 points

Perini

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    Benildo Perini, center, flanked by sons Pablo (left) and Franco

    The Perini family came from the Veneto in 1876. They were a founding family of the Forqueta Co-op in Farroupilha in the 1920s. In 1970, they finally started making their own wines. They began focusing on fine wines in the 1990s. In 2006, Mario Geisse came on board as a consultant. Their production was then 70% vinho de mesa and 30% fine wine, but now the ratio is 60% fine wine and 40% vinho de mesa. Like Aurora and Miolo, they also produce some of the most delicious unfermented grape juice I have ever tasted–a popular treat in Brazil. They have a total of 96 hectares under vine but buy most of their grapes from local families. They have several levels of wine, including a new low end Macaw label, designed for U.S. export; Casa Perini, which they started in 1996; and Perini, launched in 2012 for special projects, like the Quatro they introduced as an icon wine.

    I fail to understand why they are aiming to enter the U.S. market with a low end wine, albeit the Macaw has a colorful label. I very much liked a couple of their sparkling wines, but best of all were the unusual muscat based Licoroso Doce called Eden (93 points), the 2013 Perini Chardonnay Fração Única (92+ points) and 2012 Perini Merlot Fração Única (92 points).
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  • NV Perini Casa Perini Brut Rosé Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light pink color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; fresh, tart currant, cranberry, dried berry nose; tart cranberry, tart red currant palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Gamay; 11.8% alcohol; good pairing with pizza and pasta) 85+ points
  • NV Perini Casa Perini Edicao Especial Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    From magnum – very light yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; autolytic, savory, almond, chalk nose; autolytic, poised, almond cream, light hazelnut, tart pear palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (18 months in magnum) 91+ points
  • 2013 Perini Chardonnay Fração Única Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light lemon yellow color; aromatic, appealing, lemon cream, almond nose; delicious, poised, tart lemon cream, mineral, saline palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (12% alcohol; 3 months in French oak) 92+ points
  • 2012 Perini Marselan Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Dark ruby color; savory, tobacco, reduction, tar nose; savory, tart red currant, tobacco, cedar palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (12.5% alcohol; no oak) 87+ points
  • NV Perini Marselan Arbo Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very dark ruby color; aromatic, barbecue sauce, smoke nose; tart roasted plum, barbecue sauce palate with tangy, near medium acidity; medium finish (12% alcohol) 83 points
  • 2012 Perini Merlot Fração Única Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very dark ruby color; aromatic, cherry, cedar, red plum, ripe red currant nose; tasty, savory, tart red plum, ripe red currant, cedar palate with lively medium acidity; medium-plus finish (6 months in french oak) 92 points
  • 2013 Perini Merlot Macaw Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Medium dark ruby color; plum, vanilla, blackberry nose; simple, fruity, berry, plum palate with some balancing acidity; short-medium finish (11.5% alcohol) 84 points
  • NV Perini Perini Eden Vinho Branco Licoroso Doce Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    From 500 ml – light medium yellow color; very aromatic, orange blossom, floral, pear cream nose; rich, creamy textured, pear cream, orange blossom, orange honey palate with some balancing acidity; long finish (16.5% alcohol; unusual blend of aged still muscat and muscat must) 93 points
  • NV Casa Perini Prosecco Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; appealing, clean, pear, apple cream nose; tasty, clean, poised, tart pear, tart apple, orange blossom palate with medium acidity; long finish 91+ points
  • 2009 Perini Quatro Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very dark ruby color; aromatic, ripe black currant, blackberry, vanilla, blackberry syrup nose; tart black currant, dried berry, tart berry, tart apricot palate with near medium acidity; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 10% Tannat, 5% Ancellata; 12% alcohol; 9 months in new French oak) 88 points
  • 2012 Perini Tannat Macaw Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very dark red violet color; tar, reduction, roasted black fruit nose; near medium bodied, tart plum, tar palate with medium acidity; medium finish (11.5% alcohol) 85 points
  • 2014 Casa Perini Solidário Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul
    Dark ruby color; savory, tart red currant, tart plum nose; savory, tart red currant, tart plum palate with near medium acidity; medium finish (12% alcohol; 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot) 85+ points
  • NV Vinicula Perini Casa Perini Moscatel Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Pale green-tinged yellow color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; orange blossom, floral, lime cream nose; tasty, orange cream, lime cream, mineral palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish (8% alcohol) 88+ points
  • NV Vinicula Perini Moscato Arbo Valle Trentino Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very light yellow color with few, tiny bubbles; aromatic, tart orange cream, peach nose; tart peach, tart lemon palate with medium acidity; medium finish 86 points
  • NV Vinicula Perini Moscato Casa Perini Aquarela Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very light pink color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; ripe raspberry, strawberry, ripe cranberry nose; sweet, creamy textured, strawberry, cream, strawberry yogurt palate with balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (blend of Moscato Branco, Giallo and Muscat de Hamburg; 7.5% alcohol) 87 points
  • 2014 Vinicula Perini Moscato Macaw Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light yellow color; clean, ripe pear, orange blossom, orange cream, pink grapefruit nose; clean, simple, ripe pear, pear syrup, peach palate with balancing acidity; short finish (11% alcohol) 85+ points

Peterlongo

    20151202_174448riddling room in vast cellar at Peterlongo

    Manuel Peterlongo, an engineer who came to Rio Grande do Sul from Trentino in 1887, developed an obsessive devotion to the goal of creating something to equal Champagne in Brazil. He was introduced to Champagne by a priest who had been brought from France to make sparkling wine locally. Eventually Manuel visited Champagne. His first effort was a methode traditionelle sparkler made from Muscat, in 1913. In 1915, he founded the winery, and by 1924, the year he died, he’d finished supervising the building of a massive production and cellaring facility out of basalt bricks in the city of Garibaldi. He designed it to have a wind tunnel that not only helped keep the bottles cold but allowed them to disgorge bottles without special equipment. His son Armando took over from his father and continued the singular mission of producing both what they labeled as “Champagne” and “Prosecco” until 1965, when the winery was sold shortly before Armando’s death. The quality of production then declined until the current owners, Luiz Carlos Sella and Adilson Luiz Bohatczuk, took over in 2002.

    The new winemaker is Daisy Tempass, who previously worked with Monica Rossetti. The winery owns 23 hectares of grapes, but they buy most of what they need to produce two lines of sparkling wine–one that is aged 18 months en tirage and the other 36 months. They also produce 100,000 liters of charmat methode sparkling, mainly moscatel. I was impressed by both lines of methode traditionelle wines–which they are allowed by treaty to sell in Brazil only, due to long historical use, as “Champagne.” Best of all were the Elegance Brut and Prosecco Brut, both 91+ points. (Separately, by treaty with Italy, producers who have long made “Prosecco” from the Glera grape in Brazil and Australia are allowed to sell it in their domestic markets only as “Prosecco.” For export, it has to be called “Glera.”)

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  • NV Peterlongo Elegance Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light lemon yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; very autolytic, hazelnut, tart pear, brioche nose; delicious, autolytic, brioche, almond, tart pear palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir; 36 months en tirage; 9 grams dosage inc’d 20-year-old brandy) 91+ points
  • NV Peterlongo Presence Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; autolytic, almond, pear, light brioche nose; tasty, tart apple, tart pear, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir; 8.5 grams dosage; 18 months tirage) 89 points
  • NV Peterlongo Presence Extra Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light golden color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; lightly autolytic, pear, apple nose; tasty, poised, tart apple, white pear, mineral palate with steely medium-plus acidity; medium-plus finish (80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir; 4 grams dosage, 18 months en tirage) 90+ points
  • NV Peterlongo Privilege Rosé Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light medium pink orange color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; blood orange, pink grapefruit nose; tart pink grapefruit, lemon, tart golden raspberry palate with intense medium acidity; medium-plus finish (100% Pinot Noir; charmat method, 3-4 months on lees; bottled in March) 88+ points
  • NV Peterlongo Prosecco Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very light yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; chalk, tart apple nose; tasty, bright, characterful, tart pear, ripe apple, mineral palate with vibrant medium acidity; medium-plus finish (reminiscent of Prosecco; 9 grams dosage) 91+ points

Pizzato

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    Flavio Pizzato in the vineyard top, Plinio Pizzato’s home in the vineyards below

    The Pizzato family were grape growers until 1999, when they started the winery. Father Plinio Pizzato was the biggest grower of vitis vinifera in Vale dos Vinhedos, selling to Chandon Brazil and other labels. From 1985 to 1986, he was also the first to install VSP trellising. Son Flavio is the charming and philosophical winemaker. The Pizzatos are most famous for their well reviewed Merlots, but they make an astonishing variety of wines–from sparkling to Chardonnay to plush reds, using unusual varieties like Egiodola and Alicante Bouschet. Their 2000 Merlot was named the best Brazilian wine by a Brazilian magazine, quickly turning it into Brazil’s first cult wine.

    They produce about 250,000 bottles a year, 40% of which is sparkling. They own 26 hectares of vines in Vale dos Vinhedos, and have a second label, Fausto, based on grapes from the Fausto vineyard that lies 50 kilometers north. That label, launched in 2005, is primarily aimed at supermarkets. Flavio says he was inspired by Miolo, which he credits for having moved Brazil from very pedestrian wines to more internationally styled wines. He is an electrical engineer by education, but got practical experience making wine in Argentina.

    My favorite of the wines I tasted is the famous DNA 99 single vineyard Merlot (94 points). The Legno Chardonnay is also terrific, and the Brazil Wine Guide ranked it as the top white wine (93+ points). An Alicante Bouschet Reserva was also very good (92+ points).
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  • 2009 Pizzato Alicante Bouschet Reserva Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Very dark ruby color; very aromatic, sweet berry, smoke, herbal, clove, dried blueberry nose; medium bodied, clove, dried blueberry, dried berry, blackberry, papaya palate; long finish (13% alcohol; 11 months in French oak, 1st & 2nd use) 92+ points
  • 2014 Pizzato Brut Champenoise Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light yellow color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; ripe pear, apricot, ripe quince nose; medium-plus bodied, creamy textured, pear sauce, apple cream palate with some balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (87% Chardonnay, 13% Pinot Noir; 12% alcohol) 88+ points
  • 2014 Pizzato Brut Champenoise Rosé Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light medium orange color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; fresh, tangerine, orange melon nose; medium bodied, creamy textured, tangerine, ripe orange plate with some balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (82% Pinot Noir, 18% Chardonnay; 9 months sur lees; 12% alcohol; 8.5 RS) 88 points
  • 2013 Pizzato Cabernet Sauvignon Fausto Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Very dark red violet color; savory, smoke, roast black plum nose; savory, smoke, roast black plum palate with medium acidity; medium finish (13% alcohol; 8 months in used American oak) 86 points
  • 2012 Pizzato Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Pizzato Vineyards Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Opaque black red violet color; aromatic, black currant, clove, milk chocolate nose; tight, creamy textured, tart black currant, mocha, bittersweet chocolate palate; needs 2 years and should go 10+; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol; 11 months in American oak, 1st & 2nd use) 91+ points
  • 2014 Pizzato Chardonnay Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Slightly hazy light yellow color; aromatic, fresh, lemon cream, light vanilla nose; tasty, fresh, medium bodied, tart lemon cream, mineral, lightly saline palate with crisp medium acidity; medium-plus finish (13% alcohol) 91 points
  • 2015 Pizzato Chardonnay Fausto Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light, hazy, green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, fresh, ripe pineapple, passion fruit nose; medium bodied, citrus palate with near medium acidity; medium finish 87+ points
  • 2014 Pizzato Chardonnay Legno Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light medium lemon yellow color; aromatic, appealing, white jasmine, lemon cream, almond nose; medium bodied, luscious, almond, lemon cream, mineral, lightly saline palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus acidity; medium-plus finish (13% alcohol) 93+ points
  • 2010 Pizzato Concentus Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Saturated very dark red violet color; aromatic, savory, milk chocolate, black currant, blackberry nose; tight, blackberry, black currant, smoke palate with some balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (70% Merlot, 15% Tannat, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.5% alcohol; 12 months in French and American oak, 1st & 2nd use) 90+ points
  • 2010 Pizzato Egiodola Reserva Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Opaque black red violet color; tar, ash, black fig, roast black fruit nose; intriguing, reduction, tart roast black fruit, tar palate; medium acidity; long finish (13% alcohol) 89 points
  • NV Pizzato Fausto Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light lemon yellow color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; pear cream, apple cream nose; flavorful, fresh, nectarine, orange cream soda palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (12% alcohol; 93% Chardonnay, 7% Pinot Noir; 8.5R RS) 88 points
  • 2012 Pizzato Fausto Verve Gran Reserva Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very dark ruby color; aromatic, chocolate, ripe black fruit nose; medium bodied, dark chocolate, black currant palate with some balancing acidity; could use 1-2 years and should go 8-10 years; medium-plus finish (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Tannat; 100% new oak) 90+ points
  • 2011 Pizzato Merlot DNA 99 Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Saturated very dark red violet color; savory, dried herb, tobacco, tart black currant, mocha nose; velvety textured, black currant, black fruit, mocha palate with acid lift; long finish (reminiscent of Masseto) 94 points
  • 2013 Pizzato Merlot Fausto Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, ripe plum, berry jam, ripe boysenberry nose; tight, black fruit, berry palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (13% alcohol) 87 points
  • 2015 Pizzato Merlot Fausto Rosé Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light medium orange tinged pink color; aromatic, fresh, orange cream, raspberry, ripe papaya, strawberry yoghurt nose; tasty, fresh, juicy, papaya, tart orange cream palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (12.5% alcohol; pH 3.32) 91 points
  • NV Pizzato Merlot Fausto Rosé Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Medium pink color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; savory, tart plum, cinnamon nose; creamy textured, apricot, raspberry palate with some balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (60% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Merlot; 12% alcohol) 87 points
  • 2012 Pizzato Merlot Reserva Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Very dark red violet color; aromatic, savory, roasted black fruit, smoke, charcoal, tarragon nose; medium bodied, tart roasted plum, tart black currant palate with medium acidity; could used 1-2 years and should go 8-10 years; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol; 11 months in French oak, 1st & 2nd use) 91 points
  • 2012 Pizzato Merlot Reserva Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    From 375 ml – very dark red violet color; aromatic, black fruit, black currant, roast coffee, Valrhona chocolate nose; tasty, black fruit, black currant, roast coffee, Valrhona chocolate palate with a sense of salinity and good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol) 92 points
  • 2013 Pizzato Tannat Fausto Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Very dark red violet color; savory, smoke, roasted black fruit, pepper, charcoal nose; tasty, fresh, savory, smoke, roasted black fruit, pepper, charcoal palate; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (13% alcohol) 88 points
  • 2010 Pizzato Tannat Reserva Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Very dark ruby color; savory, roasted black fruit, smoke charcoal, chocolate nose; savory, roasted black fruit, smoke, charcoal, chocolate, reduction palate with near medium acidity; needs 2-3 years and should go 8-10; medium-plus finish (13% alcohol; 11 months in French oak, 1st & 2nd use) 89 points
  • 2013 Pizzato Vertigo Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Hazy, light lemon yellow color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; autolytic, almond, mango nose; creamy textured, pear cream, almond palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir; 12% alcohol) 89 points

Salton

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    Salton is the third of Brazil’s big three wineries. The company was founded in 1910, and they started producing sparkling wines in 1933. In 2005, they became the leading producer of sparkling wine, with 38 to 40% of Brazil’s sparkling wine market. They make primarily charmat, but also a small percentage of methode traditionelle. They have almost 20 different labels. They launched their Classic line in 1990, and now virtually every store and restaurant in the country carries it. Half the wine purchased in Brazil is theirs. They launched the Talento line in 2004.

    Salton grows about 10% of the grapes they require, buying the rest from 500 families. They currently export to 20 countries. Their main markets in the U.S. are New York, Florida, Texas, Maryland and Illinois (i.e., states with large populations of Brazilians). My favorite of the wines we tried were a delicious 100 year old brandy created to commemorate the company’s 2010 centenary (93+ points), the Chardonnay Virtude bottling (91+ points) and a lovely Pinot-based sparkling wine, Lucia Canae (91 points).

    The 2011 Salton Reserva Especial Tannat and 2013 Reserva Especial Cabernet Sauvignon are available at a few U.S. retailers, for an average of $16 and $14 respectively. The 2013 Salton Intenso Tannat (RJ88 points) is also available in the U.S. for an average of $16. The 2009 Salto Talento Tinto can be found at a couple retailers for an average of $30. And the NV Salton Flowers Demi-Sec White is the most widely available of their wines in the U.S., for an average of $12.
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  • NV Salton 100 anos Brandy Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Medium amber gold color with .5 millimeter clear meniscus; aromatic, orange cream, honey cream, vanilla nose; creamy textured, mellow, almond cream, butter cream palate; long finish (35% alcohol) 93+ points
  • 2014 Salton Chardonnay Virtude Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Campanha
    Light yellow color; aromatic, lime, floral, pear nose; creamy textured, pear cream, white jasmine, lime palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (6 months with battonage in 100% new oak) 91+ points
  • 2011 Salton Gerações Paulo Salton Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Dark red violet color; lifted, black cherry, roasted cherry, roasted beets nose; characterful, black cherry, roasted cherry, roasted beets palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish (30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Malbec, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc) 90+ points
  • NV Salton Intenso Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Very light yellow color with a storm of speedy, tiny bubbles; lime cream, green melon, orange blossom, white jasmine nose; tasty, creamy textured, lime cream, mineral palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish (70% Chardonnay, 30% Riesling Italico) 89 points
  • 2012 Salton Marselan paradoxo Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Campanha
    Nearly opaque red violet color; fresh, savory, smoked berry, roasted berry nose; light-medium bodied, savory, tart roasted berry, tart raspberry syrup palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (no oak) 88+ points
  • 2011 Salton Merlot Desejo Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Dark red violet color; savory, roasted black fruit, black currant, smoke nose; tasty, savory, tart black currant, beet juice, light smoke palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (12 months in 100% new oak, 50% American, 50% French) 90 points
  • NV Salton Moscatel Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very light yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; almond, green melon, light lime cream nose; creamy textured, rounded, orange cream, lime cream, almond palate; medium-plus finish (7.5% alcohol) 90 points
  • NV Salton Pinot Noir Lucia Canae Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very light pink color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; appealing, fresh, strawberry, raspberry, strawberry jam nose; tasty, medium bodied, creamy textured, raspberry, tart strawberry, dried strawberry, white chocolate palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (100% Pinot Noir; 8 grams dosage) 91 points
  • 2014 Salton Pinot Noir paradoxo Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Campanha
    Medium dark cherry red color; black cherry, blackberry nose; black cherry, berry palate with balancing acidity needing oak integration; medium-plus finish (13..5% alcohol; 6-8 months in oak, 100% new) 87+ points
  • NV Salton Poética Brut Rosé Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Very light orange pink color with abundant, speedy, small bubbles; golden raspberry, golden currant cream nose; juicy, orange cream, golden raspberry, golden currant cream palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay; 11.5% alcohol) 88 points
  • 2015 Salton Prosecco Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Very light yellow color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; appealing, fresh, lime nose; tasty, fresh, tart citrus, mineral, chalk palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (100% Glera) 88+ points
  • NV Salton Reserva Ouro Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light yellow color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; lightly autolytic, almond, floral, green almond nose; fresh, creamy textured, almond cream, lime cream, mineral palate with good balancing acidity; medium finish (70% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, 10% Riesling Italico; 12 months lees contact, charmat method) 90 points
  • 2013 Salton Tannat Intenso Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Campanha, Fronteira
    Very dark red violet color; aromatic, blueberry, ripe berry nose; creamy textured, blueberry, ripe berry, blueberry cream palate; medium-plus finish 88 points
  • 2012 Salton Teroldego Intenso Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Nearly opaque red violet color; intriguing, savory, roasted beets, smoke, balsamic nose; tasty, roasted beets, balsamic, smoke palate with bright medium acidity; medium-plus finish (good pairing with a variety of veggie dishes and red meats) 90+ points

Valduga

  • NV Casa Valduga 130 Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Very light yellow color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; autolytic, almond, tart pear nose; poised, creamy textured, pear, almond, palate with some balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (11 months en tirage) 88+ points
  • 2012 Casa Valduga Arinarnoa Identidade Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra do Sudeste
    Very dark ruby color; tart red currant, dried cranberry, tar nose; tart red berry, tart red currant palate with medium-plus acidity; medium-plus finish (14% alcohol) 89 points
  • 2014 Casa Valduga Arte Tradicional Brut Rose Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light pink orange color with abundant, speedy, tiny bubbles; aromatic, orange, tangerine, orange sherbet nose; creamy textured, fruit, orange sherbet, tangerine palate with some balancing acidity; medium finish (50/50 Chardonnay & Pinot Noir; 12% alcohol; 12 months on lees) 86 points
  • 2010 Casa Valduga Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva Villa-Lobos Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos Very dark ruby color; reduction, roasted beets, plum, spice, cranberry sauce nose; medium bodied, spice, cranberry, spice, ripe damask plum palate with good balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (14% alcohol) 87 points
  • 2013 Casa Valduga Espumante Arte Brut Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Vale dos Vinhedos
    Light yellow color with abundant, steady, small bubbles; autotlytic, apple cream, pear nose; medium bodied, pear, almond alate with some balancing acidity; medium finish (25 months on lees; 9 grams dosage) 85+ points
  • 2012 Casa Valduga Gran Raízes Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Campanha
    Very dark ruby color; reduction, smoke, red currant, tart beets nose; medium bodied, tight, tart red currant, red berry palate with medium acidity; could use 1-2 years and should go 5-7; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol; blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon & Tannat; 12 months in new French oak) 86+ points
  • 2012 Casa Valduga Marselan Identidade Serra do Sudeste Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul
    Medium dark ruby color; savory, roasted beets, salumi, smoky nose; smoky, savory, roasted beets, salumi palate with good, balancing acidity; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol; 8 months in French oak) 87 points
  • 2012 Casa Valduga Reserva Blush Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha
    Light salmon color with abundant, steady, tiny bubbles; autolytic, chalk, tangerine nose; medium bodied, orange, tangerine palate with near medium acidity and sweet tannins with noticeable dosage; medium-plus finish (25 months on lees; 10 grams dosage) 85+ points
  • 2015 Casa Valduga Sauvignon Blanc Premium Raízes Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Campanha
    Very light green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, ripe grapefruit, pear syrup, menthol nose; fresh, ripe grapefruit, pear nectar palate with some balancing acidity; medium finish (12% alcohol) 86 points

Valmarino

  • 2013 Valmarino Tannat Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Serra Gaúcha, Pinto Bandeira
    Opaque red violet color; savory, roast veggies, chocolate, light smoke nose; tasty, medium bodied, chocolate, roast ripe black fruit with good balancing acidity and fine, sweet tannins; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol) 91+ points
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