Tourists take part in a wine tasting at the Rio Sol winery on 13 August 2023 in the northeastern Brazilian city of Lagoa Grande, Pernambuco state. EFE/Andre Coelho

Grapes harvested year-round in Brazil wine region

By Jon Martin Cullell

A 13 August 2023 photo of grape vines owned by the Rio Sol winery in the northeastern Brazilian city of Lagoa Grande, Pernambuco state. EFE/Andre Coelho

Petrolina, Brazil, Aug 16 (EFE).- A corner of Brazil near the Sao Francisco River is home to a wine region whose uniquely favorable climatic conditions make it harvest week nearly all year long.

A tourist takes part in a wine tasting on 13 August 2023 at the Rio Sol winery in the northeastern Brazilian city of Lagoa Grande, Pernambuco state. EFE/Andre Coelho

Located within the vast, arid Sertao of northeastern Brazil, that region is located eight degrees south of the equator and is home to nearly a dozen wine companies.

One of them – the Rio Sol company – produces 2 million bottles a year on 120 hectares (300 acres) of vineyards found amid a landscape otherwise covered with semi-arid tropical vegetation known as Caatinga, a Tupi indigenous word that means white forest.

In one section of the vineyard where two paths intersect, small bunches of still-unripe white Viognier grapes and nearly mature red Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are found in close proximity.

“And these ones here will be harvested tomorrow,” vineyard manager Tobias Mello said, pointing to other vines nearby.

Sunny conditions 300 days a year, scant rainfall and this wine region’s proximity to the mighty Sao Francisco River make for a perfect wine-growing trifecta.

And the predictability of that trio of conditions, along with certain pruning and irrigation techniques, allows for near-total control over the grapes’ life cycle.

“In other parts of the world, it’s the seasons that control the plant, with a single annual harvest in early autumn. Here, we decide when,” Mello said.

In that regard, when winegrowers want to send a vine into dormancy, they induce a winter phase by cutting off drip irrigation.

At the end of a month and a half, after pruning has been carried out, they spray a plant stimulant on the vines to encourage sprouting and turn the tap back on.

Plants in this region may undergo this process twice a year, or even more frequently depending on the variety of grape, according to oenologist Ana Paula Barros.

Since vineyards in this region are not dependent on the seasons and are divided into small, independent lots, vines in one lot may be dormant while those in another are ready for harvest.

For wineries, this system allows for non-stop production.

“There are more tropical regions with wines, like Bolivia or Thailand, but they aren’t able to harvest at any time of the year like here,” said Barros, a professor at the Sertao Pernambucano Federal Institute.


The economic impact of a poor harvest in Europe can be catastrophic because it is the only one all year long.

By contrast, winegrowers in this part of Brazil only have to wait until the following week.

Since the region’s viticulture pioneers set up their operations in the 1980s, the sector has grown to eight wine companies that produce a combined total of 3 million bottles annually.

Seventy percent of them are sparkling wines, the vast majority of which are destined for domestic consumption, according to the Sertao Pernambucano Federal Institute and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, a public institution.

The climatic benefits of the Sao Francisco Valley also have sparked interest among foreign investors.

Rio Sol belongs to Portugal’s Global Wines group, which has a strong presence in that Iberian nation’s Dao wine region and set its sights on Brazil to gain better access to a country with 203 million inhabitants.

Despite the large market for its wines, Rio Sol’s total planted area is relatively small – just 120 hectares out of 450 available hectares.

Brazil for now remains a beer-drinking nation that is still discovering wine, which is traditionally consumed only on special occasions.

“Wine is still seen as too strong of a beverage compared to beer, but the culture is starting to change,” Barros said.