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Accolade for Brazil

06 February 2015

iStock

AT THE end of last year, I participated in a world record - although, sad to say, I don't think that it will ever feature in Guinness World Records. Eight hundred and fifty of us donned blindfolds to take part in the largest ever blind wine-tasting in the world.

The occasion was the national evaluation of the 2014 vintage of Brazilian wine in the country's wine capital, Bento Gonçalves.

It is only during the past year that Brazilian wine has begun to make an impact in Britain, and we are now their number-one export market. These wines have been launched on the back of the football WorldCup, and the forthcoming Olympic Games in Rio do Janeiro.

Brazil is the third most important wine-producing country in South America. The wine industry there dates from the 1880s, when Italians came to settle in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. The plains close to the coast had already been settled by German immigrants; so the Italians came to the hills of the Serra Gaucha, further inland. Each family was granted a 25-hectare plot of land, the majority planted with vines. Unfortunately, the climate there is very humid; so, to resist rot, they planted native American vines, which, although they thrive in difficult conditions, produce, for the most part, execrable wine.

Recently, however, regions with more reliable climates have been planted with the better European grape varieties.

Almost one third of the Brazilian wine production is sparkling, and these fall into two main styles. The first is a Muscat-based Asti Spumante type, generally around 7.5 to 8.5 per cent, and sweet. Tesco has one of these on sale under an "I (heart) Brazil" label, now on offer at £6.99; and Marks & Spencer has a Carnival Sparkling Moscato at £8.99. At the same price, it also has a Coconova Brut, which is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, and Verdejo, grown in the sub-tropical São Francisco Valley, where two vintages a year are the norm.

Waitrose offers, under its own label, a Brazilian Merlot and Chardonnay, both produced by Aurora. Both of these are fruity un-oaked wines, selling for £8.99 and coming from Serra Gaucha grapes. They also have two wines from another Serra Gaucha grower, Casa Vladuga, which is also known for its quality sparkling wines. These are a Cabernet/Merlot blend, and a fuller-bodied Chardonnay, both at £13.49.

My favourite, however, is the Miolo Riqueza Pinot Noir Reserva, which comes from the Campanha region, to the south along the border with Uruguay. This has soft, appealing summer-fruit flavours.

Marks & Spencer also offers Miolo wines from Campanha: the Araucauria Riesling/Pinot Grigio blend as a white (£8.49), and the Alisios Tempranillo/Touriga Nacional as a full-bodied red (£8.99). For those who want to offer something different to their guests,I would suggest the M&S Intenso Teroldego, from the now long-established Salton winery (£9.99).

Brazilian wines may be late arrivals, but they are very welcome.

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