Wine column for week of 1 June 2015

Two in five bottles of wine made in Brazil are sparkling. Several global companies invested in sparkling wine production from the 1970s and Brazil subsequently produces some intriguing fizz, as a recent tasting in London revealed.

Some analysts predict Brazil will become the world’s fifth-largest economy by 2030, and Wines of Brasil (SUBS: CORRECT SPELLING) are working hard to promote the industry.

Many wineries have Italian origins because of the large number of immigrants. The Serra Gaucha region in the south near the border with Uruguay is the highest, with some vineyards planted at 1,400 metres. It has been nicknamed “Little Italy” because of the Italian influence. All of the fizz mentioned here come from Serra Gaucha. The first three are made in the traditional method that originated in Champagne.

The Miolo entry-level Cuvee Tradition Brut – a 50:50 blend of chardonnay and pinot noir – is a nice introduction to the country’s fizz. This non-vintage wine is soft and round with good acidity and a pleasant dryness. Miolo is a major player with about 40 per cent of the country’s wine market.

The Casa Valduga Arte Brut is more sophisticated, made of 60 per cent Chardonnay with the rest Pinot Noir. It has subtle bready aromas from a year on lees. It builds beautifully in the mouth and the flavours linger for a long time. This is as good as an average champagne yet much cheaper, which makes it good value for money.

The Pizzato Brut Rose is a high-end wine with a high price tag. The 85 per cent of Pinot Noir provides subtle notes of strawberries and zingy acids. The rest is Chardonnay. It has a kiss of sweetness but overall is well balanced with an elegant mouth-feel. It has that touch of authority that makes it ideal for a celebration. It is priced at about the same level as a mid-range champagne.

The next three Moscato-based sparklers owe much to their Italian heritage. These are pleasant wines that do not pretend to be anything but fun. All have masses of ripe fruit plus zingy acid. The low alcohol, at 7.5 per cent, mean they can be drunk at lunch during summer, and are ideal for people with a sweet tooth. All should be served chilled.

The Salton non-vintage is friendly and approachable. The Monte Paschoal non-vintage would be ideal for those who seek a nice way to finish a meal. Its bouncy acidity makes it a nice alternative to dessert. The Aurora Rose non-vintage is a 50:50 blend of Moscato Hamburgo and Moscato Bianco. Its colour hints of rose petals in the sun, and its zingy sweetness suggests it would make an appealing end to a meal. A touch of tannin provides structure and balance. All are well priced.

Brazil is a former Portuguese colony – Portugal introduced vines to Brazil in 1532 – so let us now meet one of Portugal’s best and most experienced winemakers.

Antonio Saramago started as a winemaker at age 14 at the oldest table wine company in Portugal, Fonseca. He stayed for more than 40 years before starting his own label in 2002 with his son Antonio junior.

Their focus is the Castelao grape. Portugal is seeking a grape variety the world’s wine consumers can associate with its table wines. The country is famous for port but wants to establish more of an identity for its bottled table wines. Argentina has identified Malbec as a grape people can link with the country and makes superb malbec-based reds. Uruguay has done something similar with Tannat.

Father and son showed off their wines at the second annual Iberico wine festival in the town of Setubal, near the capital Lisbon. Antonio junior translated because his father does not speak much English. Both explained that the Castelao grape was demanding because of its high acidity and tendency towards green tannins.

Antonio junior studied winemaking in Lisbon and believes young Castelao should be paired with fatty cheese and baked fish because these balance the acidity.

Antonio senior believes Castelao has great ageing potential. He sees parallels with pinot noir, and the way that acidity in both these varieties allows a wine to mature for decades. But while pinot tends to the pale end of the red spectrum, Castelao’s intense colour sometimes verges on inky blackness.

Like pinot, Castelao is versatile. Because of its acidity the Saramago duo believe Castelao could make an excellent sparkling wine, and plan to introduce a dry style next year. Meanwhile they showcased a range of excellent reds. Their 2012 Saramago, 100 per cent Castelao, has grippy tannins and ripe fruit. This wine needs time to demonstrate its splendour.

The 2010 Saramago Reserva is also made only with Castelao and spent a year in new oak (80 per cent French with the rest American). It has loads of coffee aromas mixed with black fruit and mineral freshness. The tannins are almost chewy. This is a lovely wine that will be memorable in a decade.

In 2009 they released the Cinquenta to mark Antonio senior’s 50 years as a winemaker. It is 60 per cent Castelao with the balance Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Alicante Bouschet, and is rich and perfumed with profound length.

The duo make a range of superb Muscat de Setubal fortified wines (the 2007 and 1993 were the most memorable). The label of the 1993 displays the initials JMS in large type, an homage to Antonio senior’s father. In the mouth it is an explosion of nuts, orange blossom, toffee and marmalade with enough acidity to ensure it will last another three decades. It is superb alone, but perfect with grilled almonds.

Words: 941

Categories: Not home, wine

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