Pathfinders of Brazilian terroirs

Pathfinders of Brazilian terroirs

Initiatives of producers of Minas Gerais and Goiás show that the Brazilian potential wine may go beyond the South and Northeast


Orestes De Andrade Jr.
In the current season, the autumn, the vines of southern Brazil are resting. But in the Southeast, in an unprecedented experience, the vines are in full ripening stage. When winter comes, in June and July, they will be ready to be harvested, while plants of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina – the two main producing states of grapes and wines in the country – will be on full rest. “We fooled the vine,” jokes the grower Murillo Albuquerque Regina, with an unmistakable “minero” accent.

Researcher of Agricultural Research of Minas Gerais (EPAMIG) was the first to apply the technique that alters the natural cycle of the vines through the double pruning, with the goal of producing grapes Vitis vinifera in the coffee region of Minas Gerais, between 800 and 1,000 meters of altitude. He has gained followers in the Midwest region of Brazil, as the doctor Marcelo de Souza in Goiás and other producers of São Paulo and even in the southern Minas, totaling 150 hectares of vineyards implanted with dual pruning – 40% of them in production this fall / winter. The investment, only in vineyards, exceeds U.S. $ 8 million added every project supervised by EPAMIG in Minas Gerais and in São Paulo.

Inspired by the French botanist Auguste Saint Hilaire, who crossed the mountains in southern Minas Gerais in 1819, Murillo believed to be possible to develop quality wines in the Southeast. There are almost two centuries, to go through the headwaters of the São Francisco River, Saint Hilaire recorded in his notes “the remarkable superiority of grapes harvested in winter relative to summer.”

Technical double pruning causes the loop to change the vine, bringing the maturation for winter

With the transfer of an area on your farm in Três Corações in the same region covered by Saint Hilaire, the gynecologist Marcos Arruda Vieira allowed the EPAMIG research for over a decade, under the coordination of Murillo – agronomist and expert with PhD in viticulture at the University of Bordeaux, France. The scientific project funded by the Foundation for Research Support of the State of Minas Gerais (FAPEMIG) and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), with support from government agencies, has received around $ 300,000 since 2003.

Estrada Real

Tests in Três Corações started in 2001, contemplated Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot grapes. The Syrah showed better development and production and, therefore, its area was expanded to 10 hectares. Another well-adapted grape is Sauvignon Blanc, with three acres. The vineyards are not irrigated. With encouraging results in the field, Murillo summoned his two partners in a production company of vine buds – the Frenchmen Arsicaud Patrick and Thibaud de Salettes, from Rhône Valley and the Pyrenees – and also with the doctor Marcos Arruda Vieira founded in 2007, Estrada Real Winery, located in the tourist hub that surrounds the historic towns of Ouro Preto and Tiradentes.

Three years later, a pioneering wine came – the First Estrada Real Syrah 2010 harvest – with the passage of 12 months in French oak barrels (70% of the wine) and American (30%) and one year in bottle. “Since the beginning of the research until the release of the first label, 12 years have passed,” recalls Murillo. The total production is 10 thousand bottles, newly launched in the market, available in Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo (the Municipal Market). For next year, is expected to launch a Sauvignon Blanc.

A new terroir in Brazil?

Thus we start a fresh approach to elaborate fine wine in southeastern Brazil, known for producing labels for everyday consumption, the popular table wines, with American and hybrid grapes. Knower of the climate and clay-sandy soil well drained, deep in the southern region of Minas Gerais, Murillo argues that the inclusion of this new terroir in the scenario of Brazilian fine wines is viable in the face of climatic and agronomic possibilities of shifting the cycle vine. “Our research shows that wines made from grapes harvested in autumn-winter in this region are higher than those from grapes harvested in the summer and has already surprised by its originality,” he states.

The theory and practice show that good wines, especially red wines, are made from the grape harvested in areas with sunny days, cool nights and dry soil without moisture. Condition in Mendoza (Argentina), Piedmont (Italy), Maipo and Aconcagua (Chile), among other famous regions. Here in Brazil, in the Serra Gaúcha, the ideal conditions for producing grapes are affected by the occurrence of rain during harvest time. Contrary to what one sees in São Francisco Valley, specifically in Petrolina, where there is almost no rain, but there is little temperature variation between day and night.

The empirical experience of the reverse cycle of the grape has earned a master’s thesis, doctoral and two articles in specialized publications, such as the German magazine “Vitis”, one of the leading scientific journals of viticulture. Previously, double pruning was performed only with the intention of adapting the harvest of table grapes to the market demanding.

New regions

Several other projects have been implemented by the private sector in virtually all mining macro-geographical regions and variable scale from 1 to 50 acres. There are new plantings of vinifera grapes in Alfenas, Andradas Araxá Andrelândia, Baependi Cordislândia, Delfim Moreira, Diamantina, Santana dos Montes, Santo Antônio do Amparo, Varginha, Santa Luzia, São João Batista do Glória, Três Pontas.
Apart from Minas Gerais, EPAMIG has directly supported another initiative of producing fine wines in progress in the city of Espírito Santo do Pinhal, São Paulo. This project has already cultivated 50 hectares of vines European area and guided the preparation of reds, whites and sparkling high prestige and high technology both in the vineyard and in the winery management, which is already installed wines. Espírito Santo do Pinhal, Divinolândia, Itobi, Indaiatuba Louveira and São Paulo are other cities with experimental growing of grapes by reversed cycle.


The state of Goiás – other unlikely region to develop fine quality wines has also been benefited from the discovery of EPAMIG. The ENT doctor Marcelo de Souza, owner of the Pirineus Vinhos e Vinhedos, has just released the second vintage of their winter wines. The first two labels of own production – the Intrépido (Syrah 2010) and Bandeiras (Barbera 2010) – were introduced last year and now in Expovinis 2013 were launched the new vintages, 2011, of the same labels.

Minas Gerais and Goiás can become part of the Brazilian wine map

Souza says that he has always been a lover of wine. In 2003, he decided to make his dream come true. Born in Goiânia, he ran for two years the state of Goiás in search of a suitable terroir for producing grapes that could produce wines of quality. In 2005, he found an area tucked in a valley in Serra dos Pirineus, a mountain chain located between the municipalities of Pirenópolis, Corumbá of Goiás and Cocalzinho. The elevation at the site is 930 meters. The vineyards are in a valley, about 200 meters below the mountains which garnish it. The soil is very similar to southern Minas: typical cerrado clayey-sandy, ie poor, acid, deep.

“Our climate is tropical and therefore, as in the São Francisco Valley, we can begin the cycle of the vine at the time that we find most suitable for the production and can also, if desired, have more than one harvest per year,” says Marcelo Souza
Four varieties are grown in four hectares of vineyards: Barbera, Syrah, Tempranillo and Sangiovese. “I make wines that respect this terroir and the grapes are best suited in the Brazilian cerrado,” says the farmer. Planting the first seedlings was conducted in 2005. In 2008, we developed the first experimental bottles. But the inaugural season was 2010. The winemaker responsible is Mark Vian, former Salton, who also works for Basso (Monte Pascoal) and Sanjo, among other companies.

“The geographical location was important in choosing the area,” he says. According to him, the temperature range in the vineyards is one of the trumps of the place. In June and July, makes an average of 29 º C to 10 º C day and night. In August, the temperature ranges from 32 º C (day) to 12 º C (night). And in September, the difference is 35 º C (day) and 15 ° C (night). “Without any rain,” he adds. Hence the need for irrigation, unlike what occurs in Minas. Viticulture is crafted in a highland tropical climate, the cycle of reversed vine. The harvest of 2012 was withdrawn from vineyards in August.

But Marcelo Souza disagrees with the use of the technique of the inverted cycle as a competitive differential, whereas only a marketing tool. “Personally I do not agree with the description. I think it is a marketing attempt to define the wines of the cerrado. Our climate is tropical and therefore, as in the São Francisco Valley, we can begin the cycle of the vine at the time that we find most suitable for the production, and we can also, if desired, have more than one harvest per year,” he says.

For him the cerrado wines altitude are special and different because there are at least four months of dry weather with warm days and cool nights just like in summer Mediterranean climate which raised the Vitis grapes in Europe. “There is no reversal cycle, we only conduct the vine in order to harness the full phenotypic potential that they may develop in dry, typical of the cerrado altitude period,” he says. Controversy aside, the wines of winter in southeastern Brazil are coming and, who knows, will heat up the nights of the most demanding consumers.

Source:  Revista Adega  


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