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. 

 

 

 

Anteprima Amarone 2010 – Presenting a new vintage and status

On the last weekend in January, Verona becomes a buzz with Amarone even more than usual as the Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella organises Anteprima Amarone, the annual presentation of the latest vintage of the Veneto’s flagship wine : this year marking the first to be bottled under the DOCG status.

Anteprima Amarone 2010

Gloriously blue skies, the first real snowfall of the year and a high profile Serie A football match were good reasons to be elsewhere that weekend, yet over a thousand wine lovers and press attended the 11th edition of the Anteprima Amarone held at the majestic Gran Guardia in the centre of Verona. The event created by the Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella to “preview” the new release of Amarone. In reality, each producer crafts their flagship vino according to their own philosophy : some have already started selling their 2010 after the minimum ageing period whereas others arrive with barrel samples preferring to leave their Amarone to rest for longer. The ruling that each of the 60 exhibitors could present 2 vintages however ensured that those who prefer to age for longer than the minimum were also able to showcase the finished product.

This year’s event started with the customary opening presentations by the President, Director and Vice Director of the Consortium, the latter making a very in-depth analysis of the characteristics of the 2010 vintage. A panel of tasting experts had already analysed a number of samples heralding it an excellent vintage with Marano della Valpolicella standing out as the area that gave the best results. Well-known journalist Sebastiano Barisoni acted as moderator providing provoking comments on how producers should examine the long term consequences of their the present-day commercial strategies seemingly attacking the producers that have been caught in a downward price-swirl for this once elitist wine. He also criticized the positioning of Recioto, the deliciously sweet dessert wine, that has seen sales decrease over the past years.

The director, Olga Bussinello, proudly unveiled the new logo of the consortium. A clean modern logo incorporating the V for Valpolicella, T for tradition and territory and C for Consortium. The new-look follows the developement of activities to assist smaller wine producers with expanding on international markets and investments in eco-friendly practices.

Now wanting to forget that wine always needs to go alongside food, the organisers  provided a rich buffet to soak up the alcohol-laden Amarone. Corrado Benedetti, one of the areas most famous salumi and cheese producers laid out a selection fit for a king whilst iconic pattisier, Perbellini, provided panettone, pandoro, sbrisolona (the traditional accompaniment to Recioto) and a millefoglie to die for.

 

 

Campo Viejo – where size is everything

This autumn I had the chance to visit one of the Rioja’s largest wine producers Campo Viejo thanks to the very nice people at Pernod Ricard and I have to admit it was perhaps the most impressive visit I’ve ever done. Not only for the scale – producing 24 million bottles is no easy task – but also for the attention to detail and the thought that went into every element.

Campo Viejo barrelstore

Not surprisingly the figures were mind-blowing:  grapes harvested from 4700 hectares vinified separately in 320 steel vats. A warehouse where 5 million bottles of wine were left to age, 70,000 oak barriques in the barrel store all housed in a winery of 45,000 sqm, an amazing feat of architecture.

Designed to fit harmoniously into the landscape, most of the structure is hidden underground and the feel inside the huge spaces is futuristic, almost science-fictional. The precision involved in making wine on this scale is mind-boggling. Each step in the process is monitored down to the tiniest detail and needless to say every inch was spotlessly clean.

Contrary to what some may think, this was far from a factory for making coca cola, this was an operation set up to use as mush diversity in each element in order to create a wine that would be consistently expressive of the Rioja. The mix of hundreds of components (each vineyard vilified separately, 300 different batches of oak for the barrels) is a necessary element when producing wine on such a scale.

Campo Viejo vatroom

My write up as a tourist can be seen on my blog bubbleandchic but what I took away from the visit was a great understanding of how unfair the wine industry is becoming. There’s the growing idea that good bottles of wine can’t be made from large producers and that the mass produced wines have little passion for what they do or hold little interest for the consumer. In my time in this industry I’ve come across many small producers would benefit from seeing just how Campo Viejo’s attention to detail enables them to make consistently good wine. Their staff were extremely warm, welcoming and informative and  were nothing less than passionate about what they do and the Campo Viejo brand.

Anyone who thinks that large producers have little to offer, should really take a trip to Bodega Campo Viejo and then think again…

WBIS – Wine Business Innovation Summit – 2nd edition

Wine. Business. Innovation. These are the three ingredients we mixed together when creating the WBIS event in Brussels in January. I say „we“, I’m referring to  myself and Marc Roisin, founder of Vinogusto and a passionate wine business entrepreneur, along with Jens de Maere, distributor and promoter of Belgian wines.

Earlier this year,  170 people bore the snow and sub-zero temperatures to travel to Belgium for the first edition of the Wine Business Innovation Summit. This January, we’re taking the event to yet another cold, beer-centric city : Munich.

WBIS Brussels

So why is that?

Well being a wine event doesn’t mean that we have to be in a wine region to enjoy it. This event is more about the business behind the wine industry rather than the wine itself although wine gets a spotlight during the guided wine tastings by the Wines of Germany and the German Wine Institute on Sunday. We’ll also have a moment on friday night to share some wine together.

Munich, like Brussels, is pretty easy to get to from almost everywhere in Europe. For us it’s important to chose a place that people can fly, drive train and coach too without too much effort. Being one of the largest airports in Europe, having direct rail links to France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy and then being easy to read by road, a trip to Munich shouldn’t turn into a logistical mission.

And what will we be doing there?

Just as the first edition, we turned to the on-line wine community to decide what they wanted to talk about and, via a poll and online voting, we can up with a range of topics for our programme of seminars. We limited our first WBIS experience to one day and some of the attendees told us they’d like to see more content on the Sunday so this year we’ve made a second half-day programme with more sessions and two wine tastings.

This year’s programme will include the importance of bloggers on the wine scene, the rise of wine clubs, how to become a professional wine writer, how video can make a difference to our brand, the importance of place Vs brand, the importance of consumers in driving sales. All the seminars are lead by experts in each field.

Who do we expect to come?

This is the question I often hear, „Who is #WBIS aimed at?“ and here I have to say „people in the wine industry who are looking to grow and develop new projects“. I thnk its important in any business to learn, grow, develop and change. Some of the wine producers I work with have great vision – analysing their markets and developing new products to meet the needs of new consumers, knowing how they want to develop their business and very often they are looking for people to help them make that happen. We have entrepreneurs launching new projects to help consumers choose wines, provide services to wine producers or down the supply chain and we have bloggers and communicators looking to understand how the market is changing and how they can make the most of their role in it. WBIS is a collection of dynamic people looking to make headway, foster new projects and be disruptive in a traditionally conservative wine market.

 

On the WBIS website, we have the programme of the event as well as tips for where to stay and a link for registration

 

Video from WBIS in Brussels 2013