Friday, 25 June 2010

Brazil vs Portugal. But who put the win in wine?

Given its 322 years as a colony of Portugal you would expect the winemaking industry in Brazil to revolve around Port. 

Or if not, then to at least reflect the winemaking traditions of Portugal ahead of all other countries. But it doesn't quite work like that because although in 1551 the Portuguese may have been the first to introduce vines for the production of wine, the grapes were planted in regions climatically unsuitable to viniculture. Rather, a whole host of Europeans from across the continent have contributed to Brazil's winemaking. 

Jesuit missionary Roque Gonzales, brought winemaking equipment and vines from Spain to try to establish Brazilian wineries. 

There was also an Englishman, Thomas Messiter, who introduced the vitis labrusca vines in 1814. Over the next 100 years the Portuguese themselves, the French, the Germans and the Italians too all brought their experience and skills to bear on the fledgling industry.

Today the diverse historical development of viticulture is reflected in the varietal red wines now on offer from Brazil, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah from France; Italian Barbera and Nebbiolo, plus Uruguayan speciality Tannat. Whites are just as diverse and include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Some 78,000 hectares of land are now under vine in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais, Parana, Pernambuco, Santa Catarina and Sao Paulo.

Look for producers like Salton, who make well-regarded Chardonnay; Merlot from Valduga; Don Laurindo and Boscato both appear to focus on aged Reservas, and Lidio Carraro offers single varietals Merlot, Nebbiolo and Tannat.

Miolo is a reliable big name producer through brands such as Miolo, Fortaleza do Seival, RAR, Brazilwood and Los Nevados, which offer styles to suit all tastes including a sparkler.

So while Portugal's most famous wine export is Port it hasn't made the same impact in Brazil. At home Portugal too, there's far more to its winemaking industry than Port. 

That said, the Symington Family still wields huge influence. Not only is it responsible for famous name Port like Dow's, Graham's and Smith Woodhouse, but also for their Douro wines that now include Altano, Chryseia and Quinta da Roriz. 

The secret behind the success of many of the better red wines of Portugal is an abundance of indigenous grape varieties such as Baga, Tinta Roriz (Portuguese Tempranillo) and the Port grape, Touriga Nacional, whose structural strength is often complemented by the addition of Touriga Franca. 

It's that combination of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca that lies within Animus 2007 Douro DOC. It shows a garnet coloured ageing in the glass, is balanced at 13% alcohol and offers a nose of ripe red berries, and characterful aged fruit flavour with distinctive tannin that shows it will mature still further for several years. 

Miguel Leal of eponymous London-based Portuguese wine specialist Casa Leal recommends Animus along with Sanguinhal (below) as representative of traditionally Portuguese wine-making style.

Because it is that typical maturity of flavour that you get when you open a bottle of Sanguinhal 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Aragonêz. The Iberian peninsula's good reputation for mature reds is here exemplified in a blend of the great red grapes of Bordeaux and Rioja (Aragonêz is yet another name for Tempranillo) that has leant itself very well to time in the bottle, being soft and smooth on the palate with well-structured mature fruit and a bit more alcohol at 13.5%.

There's little that the Brazilians can learn from Portugal about football, but the boot may be on the other foot when it comes to wine.

Casa Leal
1B Herbert St
London NW5 4HA
07957 572957

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