Aurora Winery – A Disneyland of Sparkling Wine in Southern Brazil

(June 2018) It was raining lightly when we arrived at Aurora Winery in the town of Bento Gonçalves in southern Brazil. However, this did not matter because as soon as we entered the wide double doors we were transported into one of the top wine tourism experiences of the country. Beautiful women dressed in long red gowns from the glory days of 1800’s Brazil welcomed us with gentle smiles and gestured for us to enter the massive wine cellars.

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Golden Bacchus Statue at Aurora Winery in Brazil

About Aurora Vinicola – Largest Winery Cooperative in Brazil

Established in 1931, Aurora Vinicola (winery) is not only the largest winery in Brazil, producing more than 24 million bottles of wine per year, but is also the largest winery cooperative with 1100 families farming grapes for the venture. The winery pays the farmers 50% more than market price for their grapes at around 50 cents per kilo.  All grapes are hand-harvested from 2900 family vineyards, and the winery operations are certified ISO 9001, 14001, and 22000.

Today the winery employs 457 people, and holds 33% of wine market share in Brazil. In addition they export to 20 countries. Their specialty, like the majority of the wineries in Brazil, is producing sparkling wine, but they also produce some nice still wines as well. Because of their strong reputation, they attract more than 150,000 visitors each year to the winery, and amazingly do not charge a tasting fee. Visitors go on a guided tour with one of the beautiful women in the long red traditional gowns, and then are allowed to taste several wines along the way – ending in the very large wine shop so they can purchase something to take home.

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Tour Guide at Aurora Winery in Traditional Red Gown

A Winery Tour with Head Winemaker, Flavio Zilio

We were honored to have head winemaker, Flavio Zilio, export manager, Rosana Pasini, and enologist, Vitor Mizevski, escort us on a private tour through the massive cellars. The tanks were so tall in some rooms, that it seemed as if we were walking through a forest of giant trees. They had also maintained a museum of their original wooden tanks made from brazilwood, though they no longer use them to age wine.

                                                            Flavio and Rosana at Aurora Winery

Flavio allowed us to taste some of the base chardonnay wine from tanks, and explained that they produce all types of sparkling wines – ranging from traditional method with secondary fermentation in bottle, to charmant, and the Asti method. I was impressed to learn that they actually make sparkling Asti muscat wines all year long. Flavio said that fermentation lasts anywhere from 7 to 20 days, and they use nitrogen and CO2 to minimize oxygen impact.

As we explored the massive cellars, I was pleased to see many tour groups, as well as magnificent golden statues of Bacchus and grape chandeliers.

Tasting of the Wines of Aurora

We had a wonderful tasting of 13 different wines, along with an informative presentation. Everything was very professional, and I ended up identifying several wines that I thought were exceptional:

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Professional Wine Tasting at Aurora Winery in Brazil

  • Aurora 2018 Reserve Rosé   – made with merlot and tannat, it was very crisp and fresh with notes of cranberry and lemon. A very sophisticated rosé, it reminded me a bit of a dry cosmopolitan.  90 points
  • Aurora Prosecco NV – made in the charmant method, this was a classic sparkler with floral nose, white nectarine, and made from the prosecco grape grown in Brazil. Fresh and satisfying. 89 points.
  • Aurora 2017 Chardonnay Procedencias – complex toasty nose with lemon brule on a creamy palate. Aged 6 months in French oak, it was very enjoyable. Procendencias means “origins.” 91 points
  • Aurora Pinto Banderia Extra Brut NV – made in the traditional method, aged 24 months on the lees, this complex sparkling wine was filled with green apple, yeast, and a very high acid. Extremely refreshing, lemon-lime on palate with a very long finish. 60% chardonnay, 30% pinot noir, and 10% Italian Riesling. 92 points
  • Aurora Sparkling Moscatel – simple and very pleasing with floral, apricot, spice, and honey. Crowd pleaser – perfect for Sunday brunch. 90 points
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Our Group at Aurora Winery in Brazil

Casa Perini – Like Finding a Perfect Italian Wine Region in Brazil with 50 Shades of Muscato

(June 2018) Nestled deep in the rolling hills of Southern Brazil is a sleepy little valley filled with vineyards, Araucarias pine trees, wildflowers, and an old Italian styled winery called Casa Perini. Not only does the landscape look like Italy, but the home-made food spread out on the lunch table speaks loudly of the Italian heritage of father and son team, Benildo and Pablo Perini.

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Entrance to Casa Perini Winery

“My great great grandparents arrived here from northern Italy in 1876,” explains Pablo. “At first they planted a small vineyard and produced wine at a local coop, but in 1970 we started our own family winery.”

As Pablo and export manager, Barbara Ruppel, toured us around the property, we were impressed to see how large the winery had become. Today they produce 12 million liters of wine per year from 80 hectares of vineyards, as well as purchased grapes. They employ over 100 people, and specialize in sparkling muscato.

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Modern Production Facility of Casa Perini with 100 Employees

Fifty Different Shades of Muscato

“Casa Perini is located in the special appellation of Farroupilha GI. In this region, we produce 50% of all the moscato in Brazil,” stated Pablo, “and have more than 50 different clones of moscato in our vineyards. Indeed, we have been told that we have the largest diversity of moscato in the world, including some that was lost in Italy and now only survives here.”

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Some of the Sparkling Wines of Casa Perini

Tasting the Wines of Casa Perini

During my three hours at Casa Perini, I was able to taste 10 different wines, including a variety of sparkling moscatos, ranging from bone dry to very sweet. In addition, there were some lovely reds, including a Barbera, Marselan, Pinot Noir and a red blend. Probably most unusual was a 2007 sparkling rose, which was an orange color and tasted like “Tokay with bubbles.” Fascinating – who would think to age sparkling muscat!

Some of the highlights of the tasting for me were:

  • Casa Perini Nature – made in the traditional method with 56 months on the lees, this was a classic sparkler made with 60% chardonnay and 40% pinot noir. It had lovely notes of lemon meringue and cream brule with a very long luscious finish. 92 points
  • Casa Perini Ice – all the rage in France right now, this specially designed bubbly was made to add ice and enjoy as a cocktail. We tried it first without ice and it tasted intense and bitter, but with the ice it was softly sweet, fruity, and absolutely delightful. 89 points
  • Casa Perini Sparkling Moscatel – seducing the nose with notes of peach and soft berry, this semi-sweet moscato is a crowd pleaser with honey and nectarine on the palate followed by a crisp refreshing finish. 80 grams per liter sugar. 93 points
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Papa Perini with Son Pablo Onzi Perini

An Old Style Italian Lunch with Papa Perini in Brazil

“We need to hurry,” said Barbara, looking at her watch. “Papa Perini always likes to eat lunch right at twelve. We are a few minutes late.”

Sure enough, as soon as we rushed into a low stucco room filled with scents of tomato sauce, garlic, and basil, we saw Papa Perini already seated at the table with a large glass of Casa Perini Brazilian Barbera and a fresh green salad. “It’s time to eat,” he announced, beckoning to us.

As soon as we were seated, large platters of pasta, chicken cooked in herbs, fresh breads, and vegetables were brought to the table. We helped ourselves, family style, to the food, and tasted through some more wines at lunch, including the Casa Perini red grape juice, which is a favorite in Brazil.

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Our Group Having Lunch at Casa Perini

During the meal, Papa Perini peppered me with questions, in Brazilian Portuguese, about Trump. It was an interesting exchange, as Pablo translated his questions into English for me, and I could sense the quick intelligence and humor behind some of his statements.

Ending with a Classic Brazilian Dessert

Dessert was the classic Brazilian bowl of vanilla ice cream with fresh berries on top, and served with a chilled glass of pink sparkling moscato. Yes – the Brazilians really know how to do dessert right!  I left Casa Perini with a warm feeling, not only due to all of the comfort food I ate during lunch, but the authentic hospitality and friendly environment I encountered while visiting the enchanting little valley owned by Casa Perini in the rolling hills of Serra Guacha, Brazil.

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Classic Brazilian Dessert of Ice Cream & Berries with Sparkling Pink Muscat