Wine history in Brazil and its evolution until nowadays

Wine history in Brazil and its evolution until nowadays

The history of wine in Brazil is fundamentaly important to understand why Brazil is not still identified as a major worldwide producer and also why Brazilians are not still considered major consumers of one of the oldest drinks in the world.

Brazilian wine has gained and is gaining in size and space in the taste and preference of foreigners due to the great investments made by the wineries and by the big producers in the last decades in machinery and in advanced techniques of manufacture, but also mainly to the excellence and qualities achieved of the Brazilian wines that satisfy the finest palates and more refined requirements.

The tendency of Brazilians in the preference of sweet and soft drinks also has a whole historical process that we will try, throughout our articles, to expose in detail.

Let’s start with a brief historical study of wine in Brazil from the first vine plants brought by the first settlers until the present-day evolution. Then we will go into specifics that characterize sweet or soft table wines with the palate and preference of most Brazilians. However, it is first necessary to understand the difference between these characteristics of wines.

Press, Study and Research Department

History of wine in Brazil

Brazil, the largest country in Latin America and considered the fifth largest wine producer in the Southern Hemisphere, has been producing wines since the beginning of its colonization. But it was with the arrival of Italian immigrants, a process which began in 1875 that brought importance to the activity.

In the last 15 years, the Brazilian wine industry has made great investments in technological innovations and vineyard management. The result? Labels of excellent quality, recognized by more than 3 thousand international awards.

Chronological evolution of wine in Brazil

The first vines are brought to Brazil by Martim Afonso de Souza, who comes from Portugal with the aim of disseminating agriculture in the new colony. Vitis Vinifera seedlings are planted in São Vicente’s captaincy in the southeastern part of the country, but unfavorable weather and soil conditions prevent the experiment from moving forward.

Member of the colonizing expedition of Martim Afonso de Souza, the young man, Brás Cubas, insists on the cultivation of vines, transferring his plantations from the coast to the Atlantic Plateau. In 1551, he was able to extract the Vitis Viniferas grape juice, elaborating the first Brazilian wine. His initiative, however, is not durable due to weather and soil conditions.

The arrival of the Jesuits in the Missions region boosts viticulture in southern Brazil. The introduction of vines in Rio Grande do Sul is credited to Father Roque Gonzales de Santa Cruz, who counts on the help of Indians in the elaboration of wine, an element of religious celebrations.

The first guided tasting is conducted in Brazil, reported in the 1st Minute of the Camera of São Paulo. The intention is to standardize the wines marketed in the country. The action is mainly aimed at producers in the Southeast who persist in growing grapes in inappropriate places.

Portuguese immigrants, mainly the Azoreans, started to settle in the coastal zone of Rio Grande do Sul, forming colonies in Rio Grande, Pelotas and Porto Alegre. They bring seedlings from the islands of the Azores and Madeira, but the plantations do not gain expression.

Realizing the multiplication of the initiatives regarding winemaking in Brazil, the Portuguese court prohibits the cultivation of grapes in the country as a way to protect their own production. The measure inhibits the commercialization of the beverage in the colony and restricts the activity to the domestic environment.

In the year of the transfer of the Portuguese crown to Brazil, with the coming of the royal family, not only is the ban on the cultivation of grapes overturned, but also the habits surrounding wine. The drink is incorporated into meals, social gatherings and numerous religious festivities.

O pioneirismo gaúcho na vinicultura se materializa na figura de Manoel Macedo, produtor da cidade de Rio Pardo. Em um período que se estende até 1835, ele registra a elaboração de até 45 pipas em um ano, o que lhe rende a primeira carta patente para a produção da bebida no país.
The gaúcho pioneering in the viniculture materializes in the figure of Manoel Macedo, producer of the city of Rio Pardo. In a period extending to 1835, he records the preparation of up to 45 barrels in a year, which gives him the first chart for the production of the drink in the country.

The beginning of German colonization expands the number of immigrants interested in wine. At the same time, the Italian João Batista Orsi settled down in the Serra Gaúcha and, with the concession of Dom Pedro I for the cultivation of European grapes, becomes one of the precursors of the branch in the region.

At the hands of the Englishman Thomas Messiter, grapes Vitis lambrusca and Vitis bourquina, of American origin, are introduced in Rio Grande do Sul. More resistant to diseases, they were planted on Marinheiros Island, in the Patos Lagoon, but soon spread throughout the State.

The Isabel grape, one of the American varieties introduced in Rio Grande do Sul, quickly gains the sympathy of the farmers. There are records that, by 1860, it was already forming vineyards in the cities of Pelotas, Viamão, Gravataí, Montenegro and counties of Vale dos Sinos.

The great leap in national wine production comes with the arrival of Italian immigrants. Bringing from their native land the technical knowledge of elaboration and the culture of consumption, they raise the quality of the drink and confer economic importance to the activity.

Year of the oldest record of elaboration of wine in the Valley of Vineyards (Vale dos Vinhedos), in Rio Grande do Sul, with the indication of 500 thousand liters produced in the city of Garibaldi. The number appears in a report made in 1883 by the Italian consul, Enrico Perrod, after a visit to the region.

Faced with disorderly competition, the oscillation of quality and the growth of importance of the activity, the Wine Union is created, an attempt to organize the sector. The initiative is articulated by Oswaldo Aranha, then state secretary of the governor Getúlio Vargas.

Cooperativism is adopted by farmers. In a period of 10 years, 26 cooperatives are founded, among them some that continue to operate until today. The model gives competitiveness to the small producers and directs them to a situation of equilibrium, attained in the following decade.

The transfer of the Georges Aubert winery from France to Brazil marks the beginning of a cycle. The interest of foreign companies in the country, which was consolidated in the 70’s, contributed to new techniques in the vineyards and canteens, in addition to expanding the grape growing areas.

The improvement of the wineries, which during the 80’s was marked by the re-conversion of vineyards, gained momentum from the economic opening of Brazil. The access to different styles of wines and the competition with the imported ones lead the producers to increase the quality.

With winemaking consolidated in different regions, from the South to the Northeast of the country, each productive area invests in the development of its own identity. The pioneer in this direction is the Vale dos Vinhedos, which won the Indication of Origin in 2002.

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The conclusion guide

With these historical aspects, we can understand the position occupied by Brazil in the world ranking of wine production and consumption. We have seen that the history of wine in Brazil is very recent and, although there have been several attempts to introduce wine in the national territory since the colonization, it was only from the transfer of the Portuguese Crown to Brazil, from the Italian and German colonies that the wine production began to be delineated and gained volume.

Embora, a história do vinho seja ainda muito recente no Brasil, ela já vislumbra um cenário muito promissor no cenário mundial com relação à qualidade de seus produtos. Resta-nos ainda difundir este mesmo cenário e visão dentro do próprio território nacional com a implantação de uma cultura de consumo do vinho; não como bebida alcoólica, mas como um complemento alimentar que traz enormes benefícios para a saúde.
In spite of the young path that wine has been through in Brazil, it already sees a very promising space in the world scenario regarding the quality of its products. We still have to diffuse this same scenario and vision within the national territory with the implementation of a culture of wine consumption; not as an alcoholic beverage, but as a food supplement that brings enormous health benefits.

Department of Writing, Studies and Research


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