São Francisco Valley, the World’s First Geographical Indication for Tropical Wines

November 1st marked a historic achievement for the country’s viticulture. The INPI (National Institute of Industrial Property) recognized the first IP (Indication of Source) of tropical wines, the first in the world, based on requirements equivalent to the European Union’s. The indication granted to the São Francisco Valley is a requirement of the Vinhovasf (Instituto do Vinho do Vale do São Francisco), a private non-profit institution that congregates the wine growers and wineries of the wine-producing region.

It’s a historic and long-awaited moment for the region’s winegrowers, especially those established in the municipalities of Petrolina, Lagoa Grande, and Santa Maria da Boa Vista in the state of Pernambuco, as well as Casa Nova and Curaçá in the state of Bahia.

This project was since 2002, when Vale dos Vinhedos, in Rio Grande do Sul, won its indication. There are two types of GI (Geographical Indication): the Indication of Precedence (IP) and the Denomination of Origin (DO). The request to INPE happened in 2020, after a long history that began in the 1960s, when irrigation allowed the first planting of vines in the São Francisco Valley, in Bahia and Pernambuco, in the Petrolina-Juazeiro axis. In the 1970s, the cultivation of wine varieties began in projects that involved winemakers and investments from outside the region.

SanFo Vineyard view

The wineries Adega Bianchetti Tedesco, Vinum Sancti Benedictus, Terranova, Vineyards Terroir do São Francisco, Vineyards Vale do São Francisco, Mandacarú, Quintas de São Braz, and Santa Maria/Global Wines (Rio Sol) are within the region demarcated by the indication for fine and noble wines, natural sparkling wine and sparkling Moscatel wine.

Vineyards of vitivinícola Santa Maria, which belongs to Global Wines, owner of the brand Rio Sol

The project that culminated in the indication had the partnership of two units of Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), Semiárido, in Petrolina (PE), and Uva e Vinho, in Bento Gonçalves (RS).

The production of wine grapes in a semi-arid tropical climate and under differentiated management, supported by irrigation, results in original products that add referential knowledge and innovative technologies developed for the various stages of the production chain, as well as for winemaking.

Using a geographical indication, recognizing these characteristics brings opportunities to reach new market spaces and values the work of the various segments, institutions, and sectors that have taken on the challenging commitment of making viticulture viable in the Brazilian semi-arid region.

Believed that the first wines with the IP will be sold on the market starting in 2023 after undergoing the necessary analyses and blind sensory evaluation sessions, which are vital stages for the wine to receive the label.

The geographical indication is a remarkable achievement for the Brazilian grape and wine industry and one that came about due to the partnership between research, teaching, and production institutions.

A five-year research project between 2013 and 2018 involving more than 40 people from various institutions, including professors, technicians, and students, to understand the viticulture of the northeastern semi-arid region and improve the quality of the region’s wines.

Embrapa researcher Jorge Tonietto, who has been developing projects to structure Geographical Indications (GI) for Brazilian wines since the 1990s, explains that this GI stands out due to its geographical location in a tropical zone and based on requirements equivalent to those of the European Union:

  • Delimited area.
  • Grape production in the area.
  • Types of wines.
  • Varieties of grapes authorized.
  • Controlled productivity.
  • Defined oenological standards.
  • Elaboration in the region.
  • Analytical and sensory quality differential for the wines.

According to Ivanira Falcade, a retired researcher from the University of Caxias do Sul responsible for delimiting the area, the Indication of São Francisco Valley protects original wines from a region with a particular geography in the world context. “The region presents an emblematic viticultural landscape, with the vineyards irrigated by the waters of the São Francisco, with the caatinga and its cactaceous plants in the surroundings, or the hills that are testimonies of past geological formations, which stand out in the plain, among other aspects related to the regional culture,” explains the researcher.

According to the researcher in the enology area at Embrapa Uva e Vinho, Mauro Zanus, the diversity of grape types is enormous in the region, allowing us to find varieties adapted to a different climates, soil, and biome conditions. “The elaboration of quality wines and sparkling wines in the tropical semi-arid region of Brazil, with balanced color, aroma, and taste, is an achievement of scientific research and rural producers open to innovation, with its risks and challenges.

São Francisco Valley Tropical Wine

SF Valley vineyard

The IP Vale do São Francisco, besides promoting the improvement of the wines, by meeting strict controls of the grape production and winemaking, will lend image and reputation to the wine of Brazil, giving greater visibility to the diversity of flavors achieved in the different producing geographical areas.

What to expect from tropical wines in the glass?

The tropical wines from the São Francisco Valley are primarily young, fresh, aromatic, fruity, and floral and are available to consumers anytime. But there are also wines for aging and even noble wines, with grape harvests at specific times of the year.

Because of the warm climate throughout the year, grapes and wines can be produced from January to December, with two prunings and two harvests per year, with the possibility of staggering harvests throughout the year in the different parcels of vineyards. The flagship of the production is sparkling wines, with approximately three million liters per year, followed by still wines, with a production of about 1.5 million liters per year.

The types of products authorized in the IP are white, red, and rosé still wines and white and rosé sparkling wines (bruts, demi-secs, and muscatels) made with 100% grapes produced in the delimited geographical area.

The types of products authorized in the IP are white, red, and rosé still wines and white and rosé sparkling wines (bruts, demi-secs, and muscatels) made with 100% grapes produced in the delimited geographical area.

Twenty-three varieties of Vitis vinifera grapes, indicated by the producers, have been authorized due to their regional adaptation and performance.

The varieties authorized for the elaboration of commercial wines in the VSF IP are white – Arinto, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Fernão Pires, Moscato Canelli, Moscato Itália, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, and Viognier; red – Alicante Bouschet, Aragonês, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Egiodola, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Ruby Cabernet, Syrah, Tannat, Tempranillo, and Touriga Nacional.

Classification of Brazilian Wines

Besides the Vale do São Francisco Geographical Indication, Brazil has the Vale dos Vinhedos Denomination of Origin, the first Brazilian achievement in wine classification seals.

Vale dos Vinhedos is in Rio Grande do Sul and is the most important wine region in Brazil and comprises an area formed by three municipalities: Bento Gonçalves, Monte Belo do Sul, and Garibaldi.

This region has an altitude of 742m, with a climate of warm mornings with good sun exposure, with cool afternoons and nights, which allow optimal development of the vines.

The white grapes Riesling and Chardonnay give origin to great white wines and excellent sparkling wines with worldwide recognition. Among the red varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Tannat, the most prominent grapes in this region.

Today, Vale dos Vinhedos is recognized for the quality of its wines and is a leader in national production, with about 85% of production concentrated in the southern region.

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The Brazil Wine Guide: The definitive guide to wine in Brazil by The South America Wine Guide Book Descorchados 2016 Guide to the Wines of Argentina, Brazil, Chile & Uruguay

Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesBy Published On: May 20, 2023Last Updated: February 28, 2024

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