The average Tom, Dick, and Jose would likely think beaches and bronzed bodies when Brazil is mentioned. Or maybe carnaval and caipirinhas. But fine wine? Fat chance.
But our own Central Market wine manager Heidi Weidner recently went on a “fact-finding” mission to Sambaland and came back enthusiastic. Though Weidner feels that dark and brooding tannat is the grape the country should be concentrating on, the industry is currently focused on easier-to-sell varietals. So, at her suggestion, I picked a chardonnay and a merlot to try. The envelope, please…
The Miolo 2012 Cuvée Giuseppe Chardonnay ($12.95, currently out of stock) from the Vale do Vinhedos D.O. (the only denominacion de origin in Brazil) is a soft and sexy charmer. Where it might be easy to anticipate tropical fruits, the nose is more one of ripe pear coupled with a little citrus and passion fruit. No, no pineapple. On the palate there’s a little honeysuckle and some gingery spice. And despite ageing in French oak, the barrel doesn’t intrude. This isn’t a profound wine, but it’s pretty — and it reveals a little fleshy peach when it warms in the glass.
The 2009 Pizzato Reserve Merlot ($14.95) takes more coddling, proving itself to be shyer than most Brazilians are thought to be. At first it displays some aspects that are often better in the background: bacon, smoke, and leather. Yet with time, boysenberry, blackberry, and black cherry emerge, and the wine becomes more of a piece. It could use a little more acid, but I liked it. Yet at around 15 bucks, there are some Washington merlots, just to pick one value-oriented region, that are probably better deals. For now.
Brazil: it’s not just for the Olympics — and orange juice — anymore.