August’s Bubble Box featured fizz from Brazilian Miolo’s vineyards in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul. The Miolo Cuvee Tradition Brut is one of the many quality wines produced by the Miolo family.
Miolo can trace its Italian family history back centuries – and has been producing wonderful wines for almost as long. But the unexpected bit? They’re doing it in Brazil.
With the Rio Olympics taking place this month, it’s no surprise that Brazil is in the news. But with the focus on its vibrant capital, sporting achievements and, less fortunately, its political and economic tribulations, one aspect of this vast and diverse country that you might not be familiar with is its wine.
In the UK we are already avid drinkers of South American wines – Argentinan Malbec, Chilean Carmenere and Sauvignon Blanc have been stalwarts on the supermarket shelves for some time now. But neither Brazilian wine nor fizz from this continent are very familiar to us – yet.
It might seem strange that the same, tropical country that produces coffee and chocolate in such abundance can also produce great sparkling wine, whose grapes famously thrive in cooler climates. But that’s why it’s important to remember that Brazil is a land of contrasts.
The grapes in August’s Bubble Box included a Brazilian Miolo Cuvee Tradition Brut, coming from vineyards in the southernmost Rio Grande do Sul state, in a region called Serra Gaúcha. With well-drained clay and rocky soil, and a good, almost European temperature range, this terroir is excellent for sparkling wine. As Anderson Tirloni, Export Manager at Miolo, assures me, “some specialists even say that we have the best terroir in the southern hemisphere for sparkling wine.”
Known as Vale dos Vinhedos or Valley of the Vines, this area has been a hub of Brazil’s wine industry ever since vineyards were established by an influx of Italian immigrants, who arrived here in the latter half of the 19th century.
One of these settlers was Giuseppe Miolo, who in 1897 travelled to the new continent from Italy’s Veneto province – the same region that produces Prosecco. Upon arrival, Giuseppe secured himself a stretch of winegrowing land, on a farm known as Lote 43.
Fast forward nearly 120 years, and ‘Lote 43’ is the name of one of the finest red wines produced by what is now the Miolo Wine Group – now one of the most successful wine producers in Brazil and led by the third and fourth generations of Giuseppe Miolo’s descendants.
The Miolo family has continued making wine ever since Giuseppe planted his first vines, but it was in the early 1990s that things really took off, under the watch of brothers Antonio, Darcy and Paulo.
The brothers pioneered a focus on high quality wines not seen in the region before, employing the services of ‘super wine-consultant’ Michel Rolland and planting new varieties of vines. With the success these changes brought about came expansion: the establishment of vineyards in all four of Brazil’s key wine regions; the forging of alliances with other leading wine producers; and the adoption of the name Miolo Wine Group.
The three brothers still hold places on the company’s board, but the day-to-day running of the company is now in the hands of the next generation – Adriano, chief winemaker and CEO, and Morgana, who has recently moved from her role as export manager to focus on the group’s enotourism projects.
While Miolo is still emphatically a family company, it is also now a fairly sizeable organisation –making the focus on quality at all stages of the winemaking process more important than ever. Unlike other Brazilian wineries, Anderson tells me, Miolo produces all of its own grapes, allowing it to be certain of their provenance and superiority.
“We also standardise the processes,” he explains, “the way people work inside the company. We have a very complete, all-encompassing quality department that works across all of the wineries in the group.”
Aside from the diligent focus on quality, another key factor that differentiates Miolo is its international outlook – perhaps not surprising for a company that was itself born from the fruits of immigration.
“We want to be a really international company,” Anderson explains. “That’s why we even changed the name of the company to ‘Miolo Wine Group’ – in English – because we really want to share the quality of Brazilian wines with the world.” And it seems to be working; Miolo’s wines have landed more than 200 international awards in the last five years.
But while Brazilian wines are still relatively rare in the UK, Anderson assures me that “it’s changing. I really think Brazilian wines are creating a category in the UK.” Indeed, it’s increasingly possible to find places over here to sip Brazilian fizz and Anderson is hopeful that the interest in the country generated by the Rio Olympics will help spread the word yet further.
And Miolo isn’t just trying to reach outwards to other countries – it also welcomes a good number of incoming visitors itself. The Miolo headquarters, located in the picturesque hills of the Serra Gaúcha, sees around 1,000 tourists a week to visit the winery, take tours and, of course, indulge in some tasting – perhaps in one of the specially prepared picnics it holds in its beautiful ‘wine garden’.
There is also a Miolo wine school, which offers more structured tasting courses and a ‘winemaker project’, whose participants visit the winery four times over the course of a year to create their very own wine – from picking the grapes to labelling the bottles.
The Miolo winery also just happens to be located opposite the idyllic-sounding Hotel and Spa Do Vinho – yes, that is a ‘spa of wine’ – offering ‘vinotherapy’ treatments that use products derived from wine grapes. Sign us up now, please!
It’s in this little slice of mountainous paradise, 650 metres above sea level, that your Miolo Cuvée Tradition Brut was made. The relatively cool conditions (it can reach as low as -3 or -4°C in winter) are well-suited to producing the naturally acidic grapes that are perfect for sparkling wine – and all the grapes here must be hand-picked due to the uneven, hilly terrain which prevents the use of machinery.
Comprised of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay grapes, the Cuvée Tradition Brut is made using the traditional method (the same method as Champagne) and ‘aged on the lees’ (yeast-fermented in the bottle) for 12 months, which imbues it with toasty, brioche notes. These combine with accents of fresh green fruit to create a beautifully balanced wine, that drinks well on its own or when paired with light foods, such as fish or seafood.
It’s certainly the perfect glass to raise a toast to the Rio Olympics this summer – whether you’re enjoying it from a sun lounger at a luxury Brazilian wine spa (we wish!) or simple from the comfort of your own sofa. Saúde!