Discovering the wine region of Serra Gaúcha
Serra Gaúcha is a Brazilian wine region in the Southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, where Brazil meets Uruguay. Its name is apt: the landscape here is characterized by low mountain ranges (serras) and populated by gaúchos, the cowboys of the Brazilian Pampas.
Small landholdings of just a few hectares are the norm in Serra Gacúha, which makes co-operative winemaking almost a necessity. The cost of buying and maintaining winemaking equipment is considerable, so local vignerons pool their resources and invest in shared, co-operative wineries.
It was through similar collaborative efforts that a group of Serra Gaúcha winemakers successfully campaigned for the creation of Vale do Vinhedos DO, Brazil's first wine appellation. With the infamous Bento Goncalves at the heart, Serra Gaúcha is considered the wine capital region of Brazil and is responsible for 80 percent of the entire country's production of wine.
Serra Gaúcha's Terroir is characterized by the region's altitude and latitude, while the local culture is tangibly influenced by the immigrant populations from Germany and Italy. Porto Alegre is the state capital and is, as its name impLies, a harbor town.
It lies at the eastern edge of the Serra Gaúcha winelands, and from there the land rises from sea level to more than 2,500 feet (760m) at Caixas do Sul, the state's second city and local wine capital. The altitude and mountainous topography here are vital to the area's suitability for viticulture, providing cooling temperatures to create a longer growing season and higher acid retention. Soil type of the region is also attributed to the altitude with viticulture predominantly found planted in pockets of volcanic basalt that is high in nutrients.
The local cuisine and architecture show significant Italian influences, and Italy is largely to thank for the birth of effective viticulture here in the late 19th Century.