When you think of Brazil, you probably think of samba, beaches, Carnival, meat-laden churrascaria restaurants, and “The Girl from Ipanema.”
Not so much.
But according to wine importer Stepan Baghdassarian of Rio Joe’s Brands, Inc., Brazilian wines may be relatively new in the United States, yet they have a long history in Brazil. Indeed, the Pizzato family, who immigrated from Italy to Southern Brazil in 1870, is a pioneer in the wine-making industry there.
The Pizzato Winery now produces 200,000 bottles annually of Bordeaux varietals. The family owns two vineyards — the Pizzato vineyards, in the Vale dos Vinhedos appellation in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil, adjacent to Uruguay and Argentina. They also own Fausto Vineyards, in the larger appellation of Serra Gaúcha, which is 50 kilometers north of Valle dos Vinhedos and the winery.
When Baghdassarian offered to send me two bottles to sample, I jumped at the chance to try wines I’d never had before. I opened both bottles of Cabarnet Sauvignon over a dinner of hearty beef stew.
The Pizzato 2004 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.99) smelled of earth and barnyard. The fruit in it was subtle. Overall, I found this wine a bit harsh and sharp. It lacked cohesiveness and balance.
The Fausto by Pizzato 2005 Cabarnet Sauvignon ($15.99) fared better. Again, there was the smell of earth and violets. But this one had more notes of currants and other black fruits, as well as a little licorice and smoke.
If you’d like to test your taste buds with Brazilian wines, as well, you can find them at Sousa’s Wine & Liquor in Mountain View, Espetus Churrascaria in San Mateo and San Francisco, Cleo’s Steakhouse in San Bruno, and Pampas in Palo Alto.
Make a promise this year to try wine from a country you’ve never experienced before. It’s a commitment worth drinking to.