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Serra Gaucha Wine

Serra Gaucha is a Brazilian wine region in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul ('great river of the south'), where Brazil meets Uruguay. Its name is apt: the hilly landscape here (serra means 'mountain range') is inhabited by the gauchos, 'cowboys' of the Brazilian pampas.

Small landholdings of just a few hectares are the norm here, which makes co-operative winemaking almost a necessity. The cost of buying and maintaining winemaking equipment is considerable, so local vignerons pool their resources and invest in shared, co-operative wineries (a practice which proved very successful in southern France and various parts of Italy). It was through similar collaborative efforts that a group of Serra Gaucha winemakers successfully campaigned for the creation of Vale do Vinhedos DO, Brazil's first wine appellation.

The Serra Gaucha terroir is characterized by the region's altitude and latitude, while the local culture is tangibly influenced by the immigrant populations from Germany and Italy. Porto Alegre is the state capital and, as its name implies, a harbor town. It lies at the eastern edge of the Serra Gaucha winelands, and from there the land rises from sea level to more than 2500ft (760m) at Caixas do Sul, the state's second city and local wine capital. The altitude and mountainous terrain here are vital to the area's suitability for viniculture. Without their cooling effect, the latitude here (30 degrees south) would combine with the coastal air to create an environment so hot and humid that healthy vine growth would falter, and fungal diseases and rot of all kinds would thrive.

Although German migrants began arriving here in the 1820s, there are still a number of locals here who speak 'Riograndenser Hunsrukisch', a dialect of German now almost unique to the Rio Grande do Sur area. The Italian descendants have also maintained traces of their linguistic heritage, and can sometimes be heard speaking Tailan, a dialect formed from a mixture of the local Portuguese and various dialects from northern Italy.

The local cuisine and architecture show significant Italian influences, and Italy is largely to thank for the birth of effective viticulture here in the late 19th century. Even the grape varieties which first took off here were Italian (Barbera and Trebbiano among them), although these have now largely been supplanted by international varieties of French origin: Chardonnay, Semillon, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

As is the case in most of Brazil's wine regions (all of which, with the exception of the Vale do Sao Francisco, are here in the south), sparkling wines are the specialty of Serra Gaucha. Many are made in the Italian foaming spumante style, but the popularity of French champagne terminology has now led to Brazilian sparkling wines being labeled as brut or even extra brut (dry or extra dry).

Although Caixas do Sul is the Serra Gaucha's administrative and commercial epicenter (it also hosts the biennial Festa da Uva harvest festival), nearby Bento Goncalves is arguably the viticultural capital, and is widely viewed as the wine capital of Brazil. The national Rota do Vinho wine trail passes through the town as it winds up the vineyard-strewn hillsides.

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Here are some wines produced in this region.
Wine Name
Salton Talento Tinto, Serra Gaucha, Brazil Cabernet Sauvignon - Merlot $25 17056
Miolo Lote 43, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil Cabernet Sauvignon - Merlot $31 19016
Miolo Merlot Terroir, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil Merlot $30 32347
Salton Brut, Serra Gaucha, Brazil N/A $10 37219
Boscato Reserva Merlot, Serra Gaucha, Brazil Merlot $13 39061
Geisse 'Cave Geisse' Brut, Serra Gaucha, Brazil Chardonnay - Pinot Noir $25 39426
Miolo Brut Millesime, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil Chardonnay - Pinot Noir $23 41543
Miolo Cuvee Giuseppe Red Blend, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil Cabernet Sauvignon - Merlot $18 42364
Miolo Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil Pinot Noir $13 45018
Salton Flowers Branco Demi-Sec, Serra Gaucha, Brazil N/A $8 47349
Salton Desejo Merlot, Serra Gaucha, Brazil Merlot $25 48547
Lidio Carraro Grande Vindima Quorum, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil Bordeaux Blend Red $60 57402
Casa Valduga Premium Cabernet Franc, Vales dos Vinhedos, Brazil Cabernet Franc $20 62212
Miolo Cuvee Tradition Brut Rose, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil Chardonnay - Pinot Noir $15 63022
Salton Prosecco Brut, Serra Gaucha, Brazil Glera (Prosecco) $11 65853
Miolo Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil Cabernet Sauvignon $13 66406
Salton Volpi Merlot, Serra Gaucha, Brazil Merlot $11 66406
Vinicola Aurora Moscatel, Serra Gaucha, Brazil Muscat $10 66406
Miolo Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil Chardonnay $13 67392
Salton Moscatel Espumante Branco Doce, Serra Gaucha, Brazil Muscat $8 69475
Casa Valduga 130 Brut, Vales dos Vinhedos, Brazil Chardonnay - Pinot Noir $28 71677
Miolo Cuvee Tradition Brut, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil Chardonnay - Pinot Noir $15 73414
Casa Valduga Duetto Chardonnay - Riesling, Vales dos Vinhedos, Brazil Chardonnay - Riesling $11 75953
Casa Valduga Premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Vales dos Vinhedos, Brazil Cabernet Sauvignon $20 77316
Vinicola Aurora Reserva Merlot, Bento Goncalves, Brazil Merlot $13 77994
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