Although there are quite a lot of vineyards in Brazil, most of them are dedicated to producing grapes for food use rather than for wine production. Only a small number are dedicated to the production of native Brazilian wines, and the reason for this is primarily because a larger proportion of the country is located very close to the equator, making much of the land unsuitable for vine growing due to the excessive humidity and heat.
The majority of Brazil’s wine is produced in the southern regions, as far as possible from the equator in the Rio Grande do Sul region, close to Argentina and Uruguay. Here, most of the vineyards benefit from the cool mesoclimate of the higher elevations, primarily in the Serra Gaucha region.
Most of Brazil’s highest quality wines are made from Vitis Vinefera grapevines, a European variety, only around 5000 hectares of the country were planted with these vines, the rest being hybrids or American varieties that are much easier to grow in the country’s problematic growing conditions.
Wine making has been taking place in Brazil since the 16th century, when the Portuguese first brought vines to the country during its settlement. They were planted in Sao Paulo state in 1532. The Jesuits also brought vines from Spain to Rio Grande do Sul in the 17th century and during the 18th century, settlers coming from the Azores brought local vine cuttings with them. Wine making became firmly established in Brazil only during the late 19th century and during the 1970s higher quality wines began to be produced, with well known international wine producers like Moet and Chandon investing in the country’s wine production industry, bringing in modern equipment and knowhow.