The history of wine in Brazil
Wine and the history of Brazil are intrinsically connected. Even before the arrival of the Portuguese in Tupiniquim lands in 1500, bringing with them a great wine experience, our indigenous people were already producing their fermentations from cassava.
The wine culture in Brazil is considered recent concerning the countries of the old world, despite Brazil having been discovered in 1500, just 30 years after Portugal began the colonization process, and it was in 1531 that the Portuguese brought the first vineyards to be cultivated in Brazilian soil.
The southern region is Brazil’s primary and largest producer of wines and sparkling wines. Still, in 1532, it was in São Paulo that the first vines were cultivated, more precisely in the coastal region that is now the city of Cubatão.
The person responsible for the cultivation was the Portuguese Brás Cubas, considered the first Brazilian winegrower.
But it was with the migratory flow of Italians to Brazil between 1870 and 1875 that wine production began to gain the proportions we know today.
Italian immigrants initially settled on small plots of land in the Serra Gaúcha region, where they saw an excellent opportunity to try to reproduce the vineyards of their homeland.
The most favorable conditions and the knowledge about the proper cultivation of European grapes made the Italians become the great propagators of wine throughout Brazil.
Today, the Serra Gaúcha region has some of the most traditional wineries in the country, which combine their long history with the high technology implemented to develop excellent quality wines, from planting the grapes to bottling the liquid.
The growth of Brazilian wineries
Nowadays, the tradition of viticulture is getting stronger and stronger, and the cultivation of the most varied species of grapes spread throughout the national territory, ranging from the main wine-producing center in the country, in the Serra Gaúcha, to more unlikely areas, such as the state of Bahia, passing through regions that are gaining more and more notoriety, such as the interior of the state of São Paulo and Minas Gerais.
Today, Brazil currently has around 1,003 wineries. The growing number of producers reflects the Brazilian appetite to learn more about locally produced wines.
The 5 oldest wineries in Brazil
Even though the first cultivation of vines in Brazil started in 1532, the history of Brazilian wineries only began in 1910 in the Serra Gaúcha. Before that, wine production in Brazil was done entirely informally.
It is the result of a century-old history, which began with small families of immigrant farmers who found fertile soil for planting grapes that, years later, would become successful wines.
To pay tribute to so much history of the art of making wine and its development in Brazil, we list here the five oldest wineries in the country and their contribution to the development of this market.
Salton Winery (Bento Gonçalves – RS)
Located in Bento Gonçalves, in Rio Grande do Sul. Salton winery was founded in 1910 and is the oldest winery in Brazil.
The history of Vinícola Salton dates back to the arrival in Brazil of its founder, Antonio Domenico Salton, who came from Italy to Brazil in 1878. He and his family settled in Rio Grande do Sul, specifically in the region of Dona Isabel, which today is located in Bento Gonçalves.
The Italian created a “Casa di Pasto,” where he served meals, cheeses, sausages, and wines from the vines he had planted on his land. But Salton Winery began to transform into a company in 1910 when his sons decided to expand on their father’s legacy after his death.
More than a hundred years later, Salton is one of the prominent Brazilian wineries, in addition to being the leader in the commercialization of sparkling wines in Brazil, and it is among the three most significant wine producers in Brazil.
In 2022, the sparkling Salton Prosecco was in the top 10 of the best sparkling wines in the world at Effervescents du Monde, held in the city of Dijon in the Burgundy region.
One of the most traditional evaluations in the world, the sparkling wine contest awarded the Brazilian winery with three medals in all. The sparkling Salton Prosecco and Salton Brut took the gold medal, and the Salton Moscatel received the silver distinction. Salton Prosecco already featured in the ranking of the ten best sparkling wines in the world in 2018 in this famous French competition, being the only and first Brazilian on the list, and repeats in 2022 the excellent performance that portrays the excellence and consolidation of the Brazilian sparkling wine.
Peterlongo Winery (Garibaldi – RS)
The Italian immigrant Manoel Peterlongo arrived in Brazil in 1875 and helped to demarcate the colony’s lands. On October 31, 1900, the city was emancipated, being baptized in Garibaldi.
As part of the migration agreement, the Italians worked for the government. In exchange, he received portions of land and stones. In a few months, he already owned 96 thousand square meters of land, where he founded the Peterlongo Winery in 1915.
Known as the only official brand of Champagne-type sparkling wines in Brazil, Peterlongo used in its lands the same method of production of French sparkling wines from the Champagne region, prioritizing underground cellars, which are cooler and wetter. In 1913, his champagne won a gold medal at the Garibaldi grape exhibition, starting a success story for the Peterlongo winery.
Cooperativa Vinícola Garibaldi (Garibaldi – RS)
Unlike other wineries, Garibaldi is different because it emerged from a shared dream of several farming families who sought better living conditions in Brazil.
Founded in 1931 in the city of the same name, Vinícola Garibaldi began its journey by bringing together around 70 founders. Today, it has more than 450 producing families who, generation after generation, invest in more technology and knowledge to develop high-quality products sustainably.
The families that makeup Vinícola Garibaldi cultivate, above all, the history and tradition of the region. In total, over a thousand hectares of vineyards are spread over 15 municipalities in Serra Gaúcha.
Currently, Vinícola Garibaldi stands out in producing sparkling wines and is one of Brazil’s most significant references for sparkling wines. The portfolio also includes red wines, white wines, sparkling wines, whole and organic grape juices, and biodynamic wines.
Aurora Winery (Bento Gonçalves – RS)
Located in the city of Bento Gonçalves, in the Serra Gaúcha, Vinícola Aurora was founded in 1931 by 16 families of grape producers, also in the cooperative model.
In 1940, the production of the Aurora winery became increasingly popular, so the Aurora winery implemented 12 new winemaking stations.
Ten years later, in 1950, the winery started the export process.
It has about 1,100 families associated with the cooperative, which has become the Brazilian winery with the most awards in national and international competitions.
Aurora has sustainability in its DNA, and sustainability is a concept present in the creation of Cooperativa Vinícola Aurora.
The company is organized based on cooperative principles. This social and economic movement brings together winegrowers, aiming at the common good of its 1,100 associated families and the community where it operates. Currently, Aurora is the largest winery in Brazil.
Góes Winery (São Roque – SP)
Leaving the Serra Gaúcha region, Vinícola Góes is one of the oldest in the state of São Paulo. It was founded by the Portuguese immigrant couple Benedito Moraes de Góes and Maria das Dores Lima de Góes in 1938 in the city of São Roque.
Planting began around 1920, as did making the family’s wines. With the industrial development and improvement of roads, it was in 1938 that Vinícola Góes was established as a company and began to distribute its products throughout the state and, later, throughout the country.
They were bottled in 100-liter barrels and shipped from the neighborhood’s train station to the coast. The wines were accompanied by a precise amount of labels and stamps so merchants could affix them to the containers, giving proof of control and guaranteeing the excellent origin of the drink.
In the early 1960s, Gumercindo de Góes, aged 50, began building a new winery with his children. And in 1962, the production of Vinhos Góes officially began, in honor of the family’s surname and origins, later registered as Vitivinícola Góes. One of the first markets conquered by Vinícola Góes was Central Brazil, with the shipment of a complete batch of wines to the recently inaugurated Brasília. The ’60s and 70s were favorable to vitiviniculture, with promising growth throughout the Brazilian market. One of the great driving forces behind this growth was undoubtedly the peak of the traditional Wine Festivals, which promoted the products of Vinícola Góes on the national scene. At these festivities, Gumercindo de Góes won several prizes, standing out in the first harvest in 1963, continuing until the last year in which the competition occurred, in 1973. In the 80s, constantly seeking growth and conquering new markets, Gumercindo Góes and his sons, with a lot of boldness and determination, invested, modernized, and acquired new machines despite the difficult times, thus enabling more excellent production. They launch new products, improve their labels, expand their commercial department, seeking new distributors.
With the market in the development, the production made with grapes from its vineyards needs to meet the demand. For this reason, Vinícola Góes sought an alternative location in Serra Gaúcha. And, in 1989, in the city of Flores da Cunha, it acquired a winery in partnership with the Venturini Family, thus guaranteeing the supply of grapes and the possibility of producing wines with more excellent added value, also entering the line of fine wines, launched in the late ’90s