Our big day out from Porto Alegre was a visit to the wine growing valleys which lie about about two hours north of the city. As we travelled from the city we passed through miles of industrial parks. The state is rich in mineral resources, and produces a wide variety of manufactured goods and foodstuffs particuarly cereals. Listed amongst the international names are General Motors, Dell, John Deer with BMW, Audi, Mercedes showrooms in plentiful supply.
Our guide a Swiss national who spoke English in the style of ‘Allo Allo’, was friendly and well informed. He reeled off an impressive list of ‘largest in Brazil’ or ‘largest in South America’ operations, named natural resources and listed the work ethic of the people as one of its greatest resources adding the familiar comment about how the three southern states would be ‘better off’ being independent from the rest of Brazil !
The suburbs gave way to the countryside and soon we were winding through beautiful countryside and up the wine growing valleys of the plateau. The population of the area is predominantly Italian community and the buildings reflect this.
We called at a delightful little family run business housed in a typical Italian building, with a pizza oven in the garden. Our host explained that the unique climate and soil provided ideal conditions for growing merlot. We professed our ignorance and took a sip and said ‘thats nice’ our quide a wine expert and publisher on the subject must have been incredulous of our ignorance ! Reluctanly we left the idylic location but not before purchasing a bottle of his special merlot multi wrapped in readiness for its journey home to celebrate a friend’s birthday. A Greater contrast to our next stop would have been difficult to find. It was a huge plant with cellars that currently hold six million bottles. But our guide a student of wine making( I am sure this has a proper name) at the from the local university was no less friendly and obliging, giving us interesting insights into the industry. For example wine imported from Chile and Argentina is cheap in comparision because it is taxed at 4% whereas Brazilian wine is taxed at 40% because it is classed as a luxury item. Our guide also explained that there is a move to mature wine in none wood vats so that the taste is of pure fruit. He told us that he has a partner and has already bought some land a distance away at a cost of 4000 Reals per hectare against 400 00Reals in this area.