Brazil is still a relatively unknown wine-growing area and Brazilian wines are seldom encountered, yet despite this Brazil does produce good wines.
Brazilian wine-growing dates back to the sixteenth century when Don Martin Afonso de Souza, envoy of the Portuguese king, Don Juan III, planted the first vines at Santos El Baballero Bras Cubas. These vines had been brought from the island of Madeira.
The Portuguese also took vines to the north-east of Brazil and sold the wine to the Dutch who controlled that territory at the time. The arrival of Portuguese wine-growers from the Azores in the eighteenth century briefly created a new impetus in the Brazilian wine industry. Because the European varieties were too susceptible to disease, the Brazilians chose North American grapes such as Alexander, Isabella, Catawba, Concord, and Delaware which are all varieties of Vitis labrus. The results of these experiments were not uniformly successful and the arrival of German, Italian, and French immigrants in Brazil brought both better knowledge and vines.
Brazil has three large wine-growing regions: Rio Grande del Sur, Nordeste, and Vale de Sao Francisco. Many of the grapes are still grown as dessert grapes that can be harvested three times each year because of the favourable climate. Slightly less than half of the grapes are destined for wine production.
Only about 20 percent of Brazil's vines are of the better Vilis vinifera varieties, while the others are hybrids and North American varieties, which are used for industrial wine. Acceptable to very good wines are made from Vitis vinifera varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Barbera, Riesling Italico, Chardonnay, Moscato, Semillon, Trebbiano, and Sauvignon Blanc. Brazil's potential as a wineproducing country can be shown by the many foreign companies investing in the industry like Moét et Chandon, Mumm, Remy Martin, Martini & Rosso, Domecq, and Seagram. Increasing numbers of Japanese companies are also entering the fray. It is clear that Brazil will soon become one of the major South American wine producers.
Wine quality is getting better year by year. The control of hygiene and grape quality has been increased and the present wines are remarkably pleasing.