The country of cachaça and ice-cold beer, Brazil also produces wines of great quality. There are terroirs - production areas - in Minas Gerais, São Paulo and the Northeastern States, but it is Serra Gaúcha where 90% of the production of the drink in the Country is concentrated. The reason? The most appropriate grapes for wine require low temperatures, like those found in the Southern region of Brazil, in order to develop better.
To witness the quality of the local production and also experience a different Brazil from the beach and jungle commonplaces, in landscapes of mountains and fields covered in vines, visiting the municipalities of Caxias do Sul and Bento Gonçalves, Rio Grande do Sul, is a great call.
The region presents visitors with a rich cultural and historical legacy left by Italian immigrants who arrived in Brazil in the 19th century: the churches and chapels there built, the devotion to the saints, the accent and, mainly, the cultivation of vines and wine production in accordance with techniques brought from Italy.
In Serra Gaúcha, you can visit dozens of wineries, both the family-owned ones (with modest production) and the large ones (with dozens of different labels). You can also taste the delicious local cuisine, with lots of pasta and cheeses. The only thing you cannot do is stay indifferent to so much beauty and so many unique flavors.
Bento Gonçalves is a small town with 100000 inhabitants and is the starting point for a visit to the famous Vale dos Vinhedos (Valley of the Vineyards). It is 120 km from Porto Alegre, an about 2-hour drive. To best enjoy the tour, the ideal is to arrive in the town the day before it and stay overnight, at one of its comfortable hotels.
The next day, no being lazy! Wake up early, have a big breakfast and get ready for exploring the dozens of wineries in the region. Almost all of them provide samples of their wines and products. Some charge entry, but the amount paid may be reversed in credit for purchases in their stores.
Going on the the tour with a tour company is a good option. This way, you can eat and drink at will without having to worry about driving after.
If you still have time and disposition left, visit Casa do Vinho (Wine House), in the town center.
Have you ever seen a steam locomotive up close? Have you ever dreamed of riding on one? In Brazil, you can do this, in a tour through the old railway and through the culture of the region.
The locomotive departs from Bento Gonçalves and traverses 23 km, during which you may enjoy theater performances, a choral and lots of music from Italy and Rio Grande do Sul. Arrive early at the station, so as not to lose the first tasting, with wines produced in the town. The locomotive stops at Garibaldi, where more music and the second tasting of the day, this time of sparkling wine and grape juice, await tourists. Then, it continues up to Carlos Barbosa, from where it returns to Bento Gonçalves.
As the entire ride lasts only a few hours, you can do it in the morning and during the afternoon visit the Salto Ventoso waterfall, in Farroupilha, a true paradise that has served as a backdrop for several films and series.
Good to know: some tour companies offer the steam locomotive ride along with the visit to the Epopeia Italiana Theme Park, where the story of the immigrants who came from Italy to Brazil is performed.
Caxias do Sul is famous for the Grape Festival, which every two years celebrates Italian culture and immigration and the wine production in the region. However, if you do not have the good fortune of being there when the celebration happens, don't worry: the city does not live just for the feast, there is plenty to do.
The fun already begins on the way there, on Estrada dos Imigrantes, a highway which began to be constructed by Dom Pedro II, in the 1870s. Along the road, there are several places to make a stop, with beautiful landscapes, caves, churches, restaurants and museums.
Upon arrival, you can go on one of several tours that the location offers, such as the Ana Rech tour, which includes a visit to a typical village built by immigrants; the Caminhos da Colônia tour, which passes through landscapes and vineyards of Caxias do Sul and Flores da Cunha; or the Vale Trentino tour, in which you can learn about the history of wine production in the city and taste grapes and its derivatives in Museu Municipal da Uva e do Vinho Primo Slomp.
At night, be sure to visit the delicious restaurants and their typical delicacies, which are great to warm up from the cold, such as pasta, soups and local desserts - which are even better when accompanied with some of the best wines produced in the Country.