I won’t try and be delicate about it. Brazil wine is mostly crap. So when we planned a trip to the south of Brazil to check out the wine country, my emotions were mixed.
We had spent our fair share of time touring Napa (California) and outlying regions. We had even hit some of the NY/NJ “wineries” while in the east. So we had some points of reference. But I must say we were impressed with Brazil’s wine country.
We flew into Porto Alegre and drove a little over two hours on the “Romantic Trail” to Bento Gonçalves. I get why it’s named as such, the route was gorgeous.
Just a note here on the landscape of Brazil. Thanks to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil seems to be best known for its beaches. And with good reason, the most beautiful ones I’ve seen are in the state of Rio (see Buzios). But get away from the coast and you’ll see some breathtaking scenery along the country mountain drives. Even the drive between Sao Paulo and Rio, which we’ve taken many a time, is beautiful.
The wine country is just as wonderful and in my opinion, rivals Napa. We only had time to do some tasting at a couple wineries. The nice thing about this less “popular” region is you won’t get the tourist crowds and you can taste all you’d like for free. (Last time we were in Napa, many of the wineries were charging for tastings.)
The first winery we went to was Casa Valduga. It’s one of the bigger wineries and has a restaurant and pousada on the premises.
It was nice, although a bit more touristy than most in the region. They have a large tasting room with plenty of staff, but we felt they weren’t as knowledgable as they should have been. However, it’s definitely worth the stop.
The second winery on our route was Pizzato, a smaller, family owned and operated vineyard.
They had a small tasting room overlooking their beautiful vineyard. One of the daughters executed our tasting and she was super lovely and spent loads of time with us (and of course, in turn, we bought loads of wine). Highly recommend making a stop here.
We tasted some pretty good, powerful reds. There were some good rosé wines, especially rosé bruts. The whites are very different from other regions, especially California. You won’t catch a buttery Chardonnay in the Rio Grande. The ones we tasted were very light, had a mineral taste and in some you could really taste the alcohol. But these are perfect for an afternoon picnic or with a spicy Asian meal.
Our most pleasant surprise was the pousada where we stayed. Don Giovanni wasn’t our first choice. We had actually contacted a few pousada within Bento and were told they were full, so we started to get a bit panicky as we had already bought our plane tickets. So when Don Giovanni returned with the message that they had a room for us, we didn’t expect much.
The seven room inn sits on their winery. The pictures don’t do it justice. The evening we arrived we had some wine and cheese in the garden while Sophia played.
That night, the innkeeper served a fabulous meal complete with wine pairing in part of their cellar.
The next day we explore the vineyard, which included peach and kiwi trees and a small farm.
We did some tasting in their tasting room and then got a tour of the winery. It was the perfect winery experience.
On the way back to Porto Alegre we stopped in Gramado for a not-that-great fondue lunch at the more-expensive-and-fancy-than-we-thought-it-was-going-to-be Belle du Valais. Allegedly the best fondue in the city, we weren’t so impressed. My advice would be to stop at one of the many fondue shops along the main strip. You are bound to get something equal or better at a more reasonable price.
After lunch, we went to Aldeia do Papai Noel, the south of Brazil version of Santa’s Village.
A quaint little “amusement park” founded by some Germans in the ’40’s, it certainly wasn’t like the Santa’s Village I grew up with outside Chicago. But it was cute with animals and a little train that rode around the park.
In one section, they had a little winter village. Someone thought it was a fabulous idea to replicate snowfall by spraying some kind of foam substance from the trees onto the people below.
Ack. I kept our daughter far away from that mess, but the rest of the crowd LOVED it. Thought it was the next best thing to pao de queijo. Ugh.
Santa was there and they even had reindeer! (Not a happy one.)
And of course, you can’t have an amusement park in Brazil without Catholic representation – hence this little chapel and a great, big life-sized nativity scene.
(Makes me realize how removed our Christmas in the U.S. often is from its religious origins. Pretty sure you won’t find evidence of the baby Jesus in the Dundee, IL version of the park.)
The next day we spent some time in Porto Alegre before flying back home. I definitely want to spend more time in this city, it was really pretty and I’m sure had more to explore than we had time for.
Overall, a trip I would highly recommend.