Vale dos Vinhedos: Brazil’s Secret Wine Country

Nestled among the mountainous highlands and flat lowlands of Rio Grande do Sul state in southern Brazil is the famed Vale dos Vinhedos. This popular region’s name translates to “Valley of the Vineyards.” It’s located the Serra Gaúcha region, less than two hours north of Porto Alegre. It’s the largest wine region in a country better known for its raucous Carnival celebrations and picturesque beaches. That said, the number of things to see and do in Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil are plentiful.

The Serra Gaúcha region is known for its strong German and Italian influences. These influences come from immigrants who arrived throughout the 19th century. Vale dos Vinhedos, in particular, is known for its strong Italian-like atmosphere. Much of it comes from the descendants of Italian immigrants who live there. The area’s local wine-making businesses and the rolling, hilly landscapes are even reminiscent of Tuscany.

The valley lies along the region’s three major cities, Garibaldi, Bento Gonçalves, and Monte Belo do Sul. In addition to the region’s 25-or-so wineries, you’ll also find cheese factories, restaurants, art workshops, and more!

The History and Culture of Vale dos Vinhedos

The valley’s viticulture is partly thanks to the Portuguese, who introduced grapevines to Brazil in the 1500s, but failed to grow vines in the hotter and wetter São Paulo area. As Jesuits and Azorean settlers moved south, they saw more luck. But it was ultimately Italian immigrants who saw grape-growing success in the 1870s.

The valley’s more temperate climate and sandy, clay-like soil was the perfect combination needed to grow top-notch grapes. They include the Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malvasia, Muscat, Prosecco, Riesling Italico, and Tannat varieties.

They then use the grapes to make incredible dry, sparkling wines, as well as deep, full-bodied reds. The variety of wines produced has made Vale dos Vinhedos a mecca for wine connoisseurs. Many of them come from around the world to visit both the boutique and larger wineries in the area. After the number of wine producers in the area blossomed to over 15,000, wine-making became a certifiable industry in Serra Gaúcha.

My Time in Vale dos Vinhedos

As someone who has been a huge fan of quality wines from around the world my entire adult life, Vale dos Vinhedos was an experience I’ll never forget. My guides Guilherme and Rafa from Rio4Fun and Rio4Food treated me to an extraordinary day of wine, food, and European hospitality in one of Brazil’s southernmost states.

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The people I met there were a lot of fun. Most of them only spoke Portuguese. But thanks to my being fluent in Italian and Spanish, I was able to cobble together conversations with them. Even if you’re not a wine fanatic like me, you should come here for the food and the people. You will love it. These are the top 5 things to see and do in Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil.

Visit Vinícola Armando Peterlongo

No day trip to Vale dos Vinhedos is complete without stopping at Vinícola Armando Peterlongo. Known as one of the region’s top wineries, it owns the distinction of producing the very first Brazilian champagne. Typically, any drink called “champagne” must have been produced in the Champagne region of France. But Vinícola Armando Peterlongo has a special license that allows them to refer to theirs as such.

The winery’s main building has a grand, opulent feel, with a beautiful exterior and high ceilings. They offer public and private tastings that last roughly an hour, and produce nearly 30 different wines. Some of my favorites included an oaky and full-bodied Portuguese wine and a dry and sweet 2018 chardonnay.

The very first champagne produced in Brazil ages in barrels for 36 months and is quite fruity. They also have a younger, 18-month-old variety that’s drier and fruitier! I also thoroughly enjoyed their incredible pink Moscato and pure Moscato, which had a nice sweetness to them. Their merlot was also extraordinary!

If you love good wine, Vinícola Armando Peterlongo is a must in Vale dos Vinhedos. Their wines are out of this world!

Vinícola Armando Peterlongo

R. Manoel Peterlongo Filho, 216

Champanhe, Garibaldi – RS, 95720-000

Brazil

+55 54 3462-1355

Have a Snack at Cantinho das Delicias

The city of Garibaldi is the sparkling wine capital of Brazil. It was initially founded in 1900 by roughly 1,000 Italian immigrants. Feel-wise, the city is reminiscent of the small towns of Napa Valley, and is full of lush, green landscapes. The main tourist attraction there is the old train station and tracks. But if you want to grab a bite to eat, head over to Cantinho das Delícias in the center of town.

This traditional diner-like bakery sells a number of delicious, Italian-inspired foods like cakes, rich coffee, pastries, and pizza. I opted for a Portuguese cheese bread called pão de queijo. This fluffy, gooey bread had become a favorite snack of mine in Brazil. Some varieties are drier and more subtle, while others overflow with gooey cheese!

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Enjoy your pão de queijo (or whichever snack you choose) with a nice double espresso. If you only have a day to explore Vale dos Vinhedos like I did, you’ll need to arrive there early! Trust me, a strong coffee will be your best friend if you want to see everything!

Padaria e Confeitaria Cantinho das Delícias

Av. Independência, 409

Centro, Garibaldi – RS, 95720-000

Brazil

+55 54 3464-0249

Visit the Vineyards at Vinícola Cainelli

Another of my favorite spots in Vale dos Vinhedos is Vinícola Cainelli, a small family winery in the city of Bento Gonçalves. The winery has been producing premium wines for five generations. It’s run by an older Italian man with a real passion for wine production.

Before settling in for a tasting, I suggest taking a tour of the property. Your tour will start with the cellar and bottling rooms. From there, you can have the owner take you out to his vineyards on a tractor!

Their expansive vineyards grow a number of grapes, including some used solely to make grape juice. The ones that grow in columns are for wine-making. In addition to the grapes, they also grow limes, oranges, and other fruits.

For your tasting, you’ll head to a house on the grounds that dates back to 1929. There, the friendly owner will let you try a bold and heavy Marselan made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Spanish grapes.

You can also try a high-quality Prosecco, an amazing Cabernet Sauvignon, and even an Italian brandy called grappa! The grappa is amazing, but try not to have too much of it. It’s 40% alcohol, so you’ll definitely start feeling it if you have too much!

Vinícola Cainelli

202,6 BR-470, s/n

Bento Gonçalves – RS, 95700-000

Brazil

+55 54 3458-1441

Wine and Dine at Vinícola Casa Posta Bistrô

Of course, if you’re planning on drinking a lot of wine, you’ll need to put some food in your stomach. One of the best spots to grab a bite is Vinícola Casa Posta Bistrô, a restaurant in Bento Gonçalves that’s highly recommended by locals!

The Meal

The restaurant’s food, like much of the culture in the valley, boasts lots of Italian influences. It’s reasonably priced and entirely local and sustainable. Everything is fresh and of high quality. Inside, you can try some of the wine they produce, and you can also buy several varieties in their shop!

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I recommend trying their fatty and meaty beef chop. It comes with an oily spaghetti, which contains herbs, pesto, tomatoes, and chopped walnuts. You also should not miss the juicy lamb chops and their creamy, decadent risotto, which transported me back to Italy.

The Tour & Tasting

After your meal, you can tour the property, including their winery in the basement. It produces roughly 16,000 bottles per year, including a young and fruity 2019 merlot cabernet franc.

After you visit their cellar, which contains wines up to 15 years old, you can see the hotel they’re planning on building. They’re building four rooms and two family suites inside four massive barrels!

From there, you’ll be led to their taproom. There, you can try their light and sweet Sauvignon Blanc and an amazing Cabernet Sauvignon. They also have an exquisite and fruity Cabernet Franc/Merlot blend.

I also recommend their sweet champagne, sweet sparkling wine, merlot, and dry Chardonnay. In all, the food and wine tasting should only set you back about R$310, or about $60 USD! It’s one of my favorite things you can do in Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil!

Vinícola Casa Posta Bistrô

Estr. Buarque de Macedo, 2625

São Valentim, Bento Gonçalves – RS, 95710-971

Brazil

+55 54 3458-1233

Eat at Vitiaceri Casa das Cucas

In the city of Bento Gonçalves is another fantastic eatery in Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil. Vitiaceri Casa das Cucas is a charming shop that sells lots of baked goods, jams, grape juice. And because this is wine country, they also offer lots of wines, liqueurs, and cachaça!

Their unique coffee liqueur is similar to a sweet port wine. Meanwhile, their cherry liqueur is tasty and a little tart. I wasn’t a big fan of their orange liqueur, which had a fruity flavor but was way too sugary for my taste.

Because Bento Gonçalves is right in the middle of wine country, it should be no surprise that some of their desserts are made with grapes. Their panetonne, or Italian sweet bread, is a one-of-a-kind confection made with purple grapes!

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It’s crunchy and fluffy, with a generous serving of juicy purple grapes baked into it. It’s sweet without being too sweet, and is probably my favorite grape cake of all-time. It temporarily stains your teeth and tongue purple, but the flavor is so worth it!

Vitiaceri Casa das Cucas

Estrada Caminhos de Pedra Linha Palmeiro

Bento Gonçalves – RS, 95700-000

Brazil

+55 54 3698-1162

BONUS: Have Dinner at Lanches da Gringa

If you drive about thirty minutes east from Bento Gonçalves, you’ll find yourself in the nearby town of Caxias do Sul. This community is famous for its winemaking culture as well as its Italian cultural history. There, you’ll find a diner-like restaurant called Lanches da Gringa.

While they have a sizeable selection on their menu, I highly suggest trying their gaúcho sandwich. Except, instead of the chicken heart gaucho sandwiches I recommended in Porto Alegre, I suggest their filet mignon cheese gaucho.

This behemoth of a sandwich contains tomatoes, corn, carrots, lettuce, green beans, and much more. Unlike the gamy, iron-rich flavor you get from chicken hearts, this sandwich feels like a juicy steak burger.

The bread is nice and fluffy, while the lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, and corn add some contrasting textures and some freshness. The creamy mayo, cheese, and filet mignon make the sandwich nice and hearty. It’s honestly a full meal, so I suggest splitting it with a friend, especially if you’ve been eating all day!

Lanches da Gringa

R. Carlos Bianchini, 694

Mal. Floriano, Caxias do Sul – RS, 95013-000

Brazil

Conclusion

When most people think of Brazil, they probably think of its gorgeous beaches, dense tropical rainforest, and its vibrant festivals. But if you’re a wine lover, there’s another side to this beautiful and often misunderstood country. Vale dos Vinhedos is the perfect travel destination for any oenophile. Wine lovers can tour wineries, explore vineyards, and sample some of the best wines Brazil has to offer. Add the amazing Italian-inspired culture, and you’ve got an underrated destination that’s just waiting to be explored. Book a trip to Brazil today to experience Vale dos Vinhedos for yourself!

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