For a traveler, there’s nothing more invigorating than swimming against the stream, especially when the figurative “stream” leads to a literal oasis of sparkling wine. Such was the case on a recent trip to Brazil during Carnival, when the masses descended upon Rio for caipirinhas — and I headed to Bento Gonçalves for chardonnay, pinot noir, and merlot.
Bento Conçalves, about 900 miles south of Rio, is the epicenter of Serra Gaúcha, Brazil’s largest and most important wine region. (The area produces around 85% of the country’s fine wine.) If, when you think of South American wine, Argentina and Chile come to mind long before Brazil, you’re not alone. Mika Bulmash, the New York City-based founder of Wine for the World, an import company that seeks out rising-star regions, explains that Brazil’s vinhos remain under the radar because fine-wine production itself is relatively new to the country.