Brazilian wineries focus on quality, not quantity

Tue Apr 14, 2009 9:44am EDT
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By Raquel Stenzel and Leslie Gevirtz

GARIBALDI, Brazil (Reuters Life!) - One winery is among the largest in Brazil and has a French winemaker partial to Italian methods, while the other is much smaller and run by a Brazilian who favors French techniques.

But both share an obsession with quality.

Philippe Mevel, of Brazil's Chandon, arrived from France for what he thought was a six-month stay. Now, 23 harvests later he has five different sparkling wines, three of which he created.

"We are Chandon Brazil," Mevel insists. "We are Brazilian wines for Brazilian people," which means his creations are available only in Brazil.

His sparkling wines, from a Chandon Brut to his latest, a papaya and lychee-nosed blend called Passion - are made using the Charmat method, which is faster and cheaper than methode champenoise.

Mevel said he uses Charmat for temperature control because in Brazil it would be very expensive to have cool caves like those of the Champagne region.

He also lets the wines stay on the lees - the bits of dead yeast that remain after fermentation - for months at a time. The results are wines that have elegance and finesse.

Mevel, who has increased the winery's sales from 950,000 bottles in 1999 to nearly 2 million bottles this year, says he is more interested in retaining the wines' freshness and lightness than in quantity.   Continued...

<p>A man samples a glass of wine in a file photo. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau</p>