I know very little about Brazilian wines. I certainly can’t remember the last time I drank one – and I rarely see them on restaurant or bar wine lists. Who better, then, to learn from than Nicholas Corfe, Commercial Director of ‘Go Brazil’, the only exclusive seller of Brazilian wines in the UK?
Nicholas had agreed to show a number of his firm’s wines at a Chelsea & Fulham Wine Society (CFWS) tasting – and what a privilege it was to have him share his knowledge and expertise with us: I learned a lot.
Brazilian wines primarily came from the south of the country. Their characteristics, according to Nicholas, include wines with bright acidity and lower alcohol levels and the minerality and structure you’d expect from Old World wines, yet the ripe, fruity flavours you’d find in the New World. The best of both worlds in a single bottle…?
We began the evening with a Geisse Extra Brut Tradicional 2014. This sparkler is a 50% Chardonnay-50% Pinot Noir blend that has spent 30 months on lees and was awarded 94 points by Decanter magazine in 2018. Initially, I was taken aback by its dryness (the “extra” Brut was evident). Three or four sips in, I was warming to it, however, thanks to its creamy palate and decent finish.
Sparkling wine is big news in Brazil; every year, the country’s wineries sell a whopping 24.9 million bottles. Indeed, the sheer scale of wine production in Brazil is staggering: this is a country that boasts no fewer than 240 different grape varieties.
I’m a big fan of Riesling, but was underwhelmed by our next wine, a Sinais Itálico Riesling 2019, produced from a grape of central European origin. It had spent four months on lees prior to bottling, but I didn’t find it had much character and suspect it suffered in comparison with its predecessor.
Nor was I bowled over by our third wine, the Don Guerino Reserva Chardonnay 2018 – although it did provide more heat and a longer finish than I’d expected. This single varietal Chardonnay, from 12 year old vines in the Alto Feliz region of the Serra Gaucha hills, was a lovely pale yellow colour and not overly oaked – but I’d prefer to try it again in a few years’ time.
The first red we tasted was what I think of as one of the “trickier” grapes. A quality Pinot Noir is a thing of beauty, but when it’s bad…well, my immediate reaction to this Don Guerino Reserva Pinot Noir 2018 was that it was young, and too acidic. That impression did not change and this was my least favourite wine of the night.
The Pizzato Fausto Merlot 2016 proved an improvement; produced by a small, family-owned winery, this 100% Merlot had been aged for eight months in third and fourth fill French oak. It showed lots of red fruit and plenty of heat; definitely a step in the right direction.
As for the Don Guerino ‘Vintage’ Malbec 2017, I loved its beautiful damson red colour and gorgeous vintage label. Yet despite getting blackcurrants and vanilla (presumably from its time in American and French oak) on the palate, it didn’t present the dark fruits that I’d expected; instead, I found it slightly harsh.
The Campos de Cima Trȇs Bocas 2016, however, was a whole other story. This blend of Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon and Ruby Cabernet had the most gorgeous nose and I found its structure elegant and appealing. This was my undoubted favourite of the evening: kudos to its maker, Frenchman Michel Fabre.
Moving on, I was excited to try the Don Guerino Reserva Teroldego 2017, this grape of northeast Italian origin – an 100% example from 15 year old wines – being a rarity at tastings. Unfortunately, whilst smitten by its black cherry colour, the first sip of wine hit the back of my throat like petrol – and things didn’t improve from there. There was plenty of heat and what would have been a good finish had I liked the wine…but I didn’t, much as I tried. Better with food, perhaps?
Hmm. I found myself desperately hoping that the final wine would be a hit – and I’m pleased to report that the Sanjo Nobrese Sparkling Moscato NV did, indeed, win my heart. “Like sparkling grape juice”, I wrote of this fizz from Brazil’s coldest state, Santa Catarina: I relished its light fruitiness and could easily picture myself sipping this on a summer’s evening. I’m certain it would work well as a dessert wine, too.
I’m glad we finished on a high. I’m glad, too, that I went along to this tasting – although I’m not yet a convert to Brazilian wines. The country’s wines may have won copious awards between them, but I can’t say that they have won me over…yet.