Challenges for Wine in Brazil – interview with a winelover and Sommelier

We’re almost a quarter of the way through 2014 already and after a mild winter, this summers World Cup in Brazil is sure to bring even more sunshine to this year. Whilst I might not be following the footie, I’m gearing up for another trip to the land of Samba in April as I take a group of wineries from Montalcino in Tuscany for their second participation at South America’s most important wine fair, Expovinis.

Traditionally a beer drinking country, over the past few years Brazil has increased its consumption (and production) of wine considerably and with a huge part of the population now with money in their pockets and starting to travel abroad regularly, consumers are acquiring the taste for wine. Add to that a huge proportion of the population in Sao Paulo and the south of the country (which is industrialised and relatively rich) is of Italian origin and you have an interesting wine market in the making, especially for wines of the Bel Paese. In fact a report by Rabobank last year indicated Brazil amongst the 4 top interesting wine markets for the future, the others being Mexico, Poland and Nigeria.

Vanda Brazilian wine bloggerOn a recent trip to Sao Paulo, I caught up with friend and Brazilian wine blogger Vanda Menegucci (see her site Vinhos Amores e Taças de uma Forma Descomplicada) in Bardega, one of the hottest wine bars in town, to ask her more about the Brazilian market.

Vanda, tell us about the Brazilian consumer:

The Brazilian people in general are great connoisseurs of beers. Wine consumers however are the people who like international trips or enjoy fine-dining are also often descendants of immigrants from Italy and German that have the culture of wine.

Today Brazil is very large and varied. I think that the wine producers are attracted to Brazil as nowadays Brazil is enjoying a period of prosperity and all the large multinational companies look at Brazil with a different perspective and understand the potential that the country has.

Today the Brazilian wine market is quite interesting: there are many opportunities for growth although there is a certain embarrassment on the part of the consumers to chose a particular wine. I think that today the Brazilian consumer must learn to eliminate the complication surrounding wine. Whether you’re an expert, a sommelier, a consumer or someone who works in the sector, you learn by un-learning. Promotions tend to add mystery and complications to wine when wine should be a drink as simple as beer. People arrive at a bar and ask for a beer without insecurity or fears surrounding what they are asking for. This is how wine must be but we have a long way to go before consumers feel confortable to say simply, I like this sort of wine or this grape variety even if it’s the cheapest on the wine list.

Domestic producers are improving the standards of winemaking, participating at international competitions and attracting a lot of interest. Brazilian wine producers are investing in state of the art technology so that they can then compete with wine producers from Europe and the USA.

Tell us about your passion for wine:

I always liked drinking wine, I started looking at the difference between wines when I started working with a wine importer and translating the technical sheets. The importer would buy wine from other countries so I would get the technical sheets in the original language or many times even in English.

Needing to do presentations with sommeliers and people in the on-trade, I needed to translate the wine list and that is where I started getting curious about wine. So that’s why I became more interested in wines and how they were made, their characteristics and peculiarities so I thought to myself that I ought to study a professional diploma in wine tasting.

Effectively, the professional side then fed the passion for wine. When you choose an industry to work in and when you are able to accumulate cultural baggage related to that sector, you will go further. You have to specialize to be able to talk with authority on the subject.

Now it’s really difficult for me to say I prefer this grape or that grape because you get to learn about so many things doing such a course, it opens your mind and palate to a range of tastes.

Tell us about your blog that you launched last year:

The blog is in reality a place where I can share my thoughts on wines and I think that it serves to show that any person can become knowledgeable about wine, either by working for an importer, for the commercial side of a winery or in a bar.

Wine is a drink that is so appreciated that I think that the aim of the blog is to communicate my experiences and try to demystify wine from being a drink that is expensive, complicated and difficult to understand to being something that one can develop a passion for.

What advice would you give to foreign wine producers looking to enter the Brazilian market?  

I advise them to find serious importers and contacts with associations and wine schools as the people in the sector are involved in these sorts of associations. You should use these as a way of attacking the market.

Also if you want to make headway on this market, you must understand the style of the Brazilian consumer as well as the culture and the local taste for wine.

Me & Vanda Bardega

In April 2014, 13 producers of Brunello di Montalcino will participate at Expovinis (stand F035) and will host a wine-makers dinner, a wine-tasting seminar and an event with sommeliers and wine lovers.