Four Brazilian Wines to Sip On

Sparkling wines from the land of Samba.
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Mario Geisse makes sparkling wines at his Familia Geisse vineyards in Brazil’s Altos de Pinto Bandeira region. Courtesy of Familia Geisse

When you think of Brazil, you imagine samba, the girl from Ipanema, and Corcovado with its colossal Cristo Redentor statue. I doubt you think wine. While Brazil’s South American neighbors—Argentina and Chile—have swept the wine world with their bold Malbec and Carménère reds, Brazil is not known wine-wise, although domestically makes excellent sparkling wine. Something monumental happened just months ago: The Brazilian wine region of Altos de Pinto Bandeira received a Denominación de Origen (DO) becoming the first DO exclusively for sparkling wine in the New World. This is groundbreaking, bringing Brazil’s Pinto Bandeira into the prestigious DO club with France’s Champagne and Italy’s Franciacorta.

Mario Geisse, considered the grandfather of Brazil’s quality sparkling wine industry, worked for 10 years to bring about this rare DO recognition. In the mid-’70s, then Chilean winemaker Geisse was tapped by Moet & Chandon to work for Chandon in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul. For three years, Geisse made wine in the Charmat method (generating bubbles by carbonating the wine in steel tanks) versus the more expensive and elaborate méthode Champenoise, which involves a second fermentation in the bottle and long aging on the yeasts to refine the wine before it is riddled and disgorged.

Mario Geisse

Courtesy of Familia Geisse

Wanting to make his own méthode Champenoise sparkling, Geisse bought small parcels at high altitude in southern Brazil to grow Champagne grapes—Chardonnay and Pinot Noir—and opened Familia Geisse in the Altos de Pinto Bandeira region. Aiming for the best quality, Geisse insisted everything be done by hand and the grapes be grown organically. He used thermal pest control technology: Wind turbines blow 140-degree air for a split second onto the vineyards, blowing off bugs and stressing the vines, making them more resilient to insects.

Three fortunate conditions enabled Geisse to make spectacular sparkling wines. The vineyards are perched at 2,400 feet above sea level, where the cooler temperatures keep fresh acidity in the grapes. The climate allows for full ripening. At harvest, the 40 micro-terroir sites are picked and vinified in separate batches and then blended
into the final cuvées. And the site possesses Cretaceous-era soil, which imparts the all- important minerality, giving the wines complexity and mineral nuance.

On the socially responsible front, the winery is fully solar-powered, and all employees are provided housing and a share of the winery’s profits. With elegant and delicious cuvées receiving eye-popping scores by major critics, Familia Geisse is the only winery from the new DO that is exported to the United States.

Baroness Recommends

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Courtesy of Familia Geisse

Cave Amadeu Brut ($25)
With white flowers and ripe fruit on the nose, this 80 percent Chardonnay and 20 percent Pinot Noir, aged on its lees for 12 months, is crisp with persistent bubbles.

Cave Amadeu Brut Rosé ($25)
Lovely strawberry and raspberry aromas combine with tropical fruit and almond flavors in this 100 percent Pinot Noir with persistent perlage.

Terroir Rosé Nature ($55)
With a 95-point score from Decanter, this 100 percent Pinot Noir, aged 48 months, has light strawberry notes and fine bubbles from long aging.

Cave Geisse Nature ($35)
This exceptional wine has no dosage or additional sugar to mask the pure expression of ripe fruit. Aged for 24 months, it displays delicate flavors and a fine mousse.

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The print version of this article appeared with the headline: Brazil’s Best.