Written for Around the World in 80 Harvests.
Brazil’s main wine region, Vale dos Vinhedos, may well be what you least expect from the country known for its tropical beaches, flamboyant carnival and vast Amazon jungle. The landscape of Serra Gaucha, one of the southernmost states in Brazil, consists of hillsides and forest. It is humid, like all of Brazil, but the cloudy and rainy days make you feel closer to somewhere in northern Europe than the postcard image of Brazil. With 2000mm of rain a year and undulating hillsides, it paints an altogether different landscape to that of Rio de Janeiro.
Many compare it to Italian wine regions like Tuscany, and these comparisons are not as far-fetched as you might first think. This is indeed a little Italy. The location may be far off, but the culture is not.
As you drive around Vale dos Vinhedos, you’ll see small farms beyond the hedgerows, countryside houses in the style of Northern Italy, and signs for pasta and pizza restaurants. You might even hear some conversations in Talian – the old Venetian dialect that locals still speak. But most of all you’ll see vineyards and wineries. This region has the most concentrated number of wine producers in one area of the whole of South America.
So how did this pocket-sized corner of Brazil become such a wine hot spot?
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