How Georgian & Greek grapes found a new home in the pampas and the newly minted Zebra Xinomavro will be the next hipster sommellier darling.
I have never been to Brazil. It’s the music such as Jobim and de Moraes ‘ So Danco Samba’ which is etched in memory. More recently, while flying with an Embraer jet which was not only fast and smooth in handling the usual over the Alps ‘welcome’ turbulence but left me in admiration as to how far their aeronautic industry had come. My first encounter with Brazilian wine was during the previous decade at the Thessaloniki Wine Competition. No pun intended a flight of sparkling Muscat. After eliminating that it was not European I found it impossible to place. It must be an emerging country was my thinking before results revealed origins. How things have changed. Go to a map and look at it’s size, wealth of soil types, topography and latitude. Climate zones from subtropic to continental climate along the border with Uruguay. The investment in Brazilian wine has been important and it is ongoing. They have become a force to be reckoned with and one of the fastest growing markets. With 150 wineries producing quality wine it is has laid down a marker. We are going to hear more from these forward thinking Brazilians. There is a little known Greek connection: several top tier estates are now exporting to Brazil. Actually in the world of Greek wine it is one of the bright spots. Beyond enchanting consumers professionals have taken note of the characterful Greek varieties. Enter someone who knows how to focus from his previous profession with in an age old healing practice.
James Martini Carl was an acupuncturist. He quit to follow his passion to farm and make the next step wine from a less travelled route. His approach is the conviction that the grape varieties best to express Brazil’s terroir are Georgian and Greek, two countries who have left an inedible mark and are on the brink of reinventing themselves. There are over 500 Georgian varieties: for it’s size that is an impressive high count. Carl’s Greek selection is not only interesting for the initial explorative stage but its wide and far reaching ramifications. The usual suspects now bearing fruit are Assyrtiko and more recently Vidiano. Assyrtiko is impressive in its adaptation to its new home. Another star Vidiano is highly thought off with plans for sparkling wines. On the red front one finds Agiorgitiko, Mandilaria and Xinomavro. The second phase: a list of grapes, some so obscure, are scheduled to be planted in a cooler high altitude(1500m). Quite a distance away from the subtropic balmy weather of Negroponte Vigna’s Rio Grande do Sul base. The first step is the hardest. Now other colleagues have taken notice of these little known grapes. In the warmer terroir of Campanha Gaucha the Campos de Cima winery it is climate change directing their interest towards Assyrtiko and Vidiano. Brazil has a stronger sun radiation than Greece. Interestingly one vineyard had Carl waxing lyrical that ”San Jorge loves iron rich red soils, the high terra rossa Agiorgitiko stole the party”.
Brazilian winemakers have before them a wealth of vitis vinifera to choose from. These options now span a broader selection. Some can trace their roots to the Aegean and mainland Greece. On merit top performers will gain a new lease on life. Beyond the strong cultural ties of Brazil and the Iberian peninsula in the near future they will also include once obscuria from the two old world aforementioned wine cultures. Which country will be able to match a new twist of blends with Agiorgitiko-Tempranillo. Perhaps take the risk uniting two of the more intriguing grapes out there Saperavi with Xinomavro. These clever blends have compelling stories: a marketers dream. For the curious and open minded wine lovers, it will be added fun to enjoy discovering a fusion of the old and new world in a country as diverse culturally and exotic as they come. Negroponte’s wines follow the natural wine school of thought. Beyond historic grapes Carl is fermenting in Zebra casks, coopered with two indigenous Brazilian types of wood. Zebra Xinomavro anyone? Do look out for a forthcoming tasting report. As the Greek vineyard acreage continues to contract these exciting developments are invaluable. Morning light casts a ray of magic. This new dawn is a good enough excuse to go out and celebrate. So Danco Samba…Vai!