Many vine growing regions resent the description of their wines as “new world.” As they will tell you, they have been making wines for well over a hundred years. It simply took the rest of the world time to discover what they were producing. In the last three decades we have caught up with wines from Australia, California, New Zealand, and more recently Argentina, Chile and South Africa. Each of these regions have placed their stamp firmly on particular grape varieties. The savoury shiraz from Australia, the forceful Californian zinfandel, and the richness and tropical fruit New Zealanders found in sauvignon blanc. Producers all over the world have been seeking to discover what extra flavour dimensions their regions could give to familiar varietals. Argentina had spectacular success with the malbec grape, previously known for producing the black wines of Cahors. When it was grown at high altitude in Mendoza, on the edge of the Andes mountain range, it found extra floral notes and a rich fruit core of blackberry and blueberry flavours. The Chileans achieved similar success with the dark and coal-like carmenère grape. Meanwhile, in South Africa, winemakers found additional notes and a ripeness in chenin blanc.
New wine regions are being discovered, all the time, each hoping to make its mark by producing something distinctively local but celebrated globally. However, the later one joins the search for success, the harder it is to find promising grapes that are capable of rejuvenation. Not surprisingly, it’s the major players in the new world economy who are keen to develop their nascent wine industries, and China and Brazil are both developing fast. While the former created a new wine culture, the latter has taken an existing one to a new level. So far Brazilian winemakers have only been producing wines for the home market but as the quality has continued to rise, it is time the rest of the world knew more about these wines.
Almost a century ago, an Italian community moved into Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul and started making spumante. For red wine they planted the nebbiolo grape on slopes like those of their native Piedmont. From here grew the wine industry you can see thriving today in the Vale dos Vinhedos, close to the city of Bento Gonçalves, and near Pinto Bandeira. The nebbiolo vines no longer exist. They were pulled up and replaced by merlot and…