By Ernest Barteldes
While I was living in Brazil as an adult in the 1990s, the liquor known as cachaça was regarded as a poor man’s drink found only in corner botecos (dive bars) where a shot could be purchased for as little as fifty cents. Broke youngsters and college students would buy a cheap bottle in order to make homemade caipirinhas in spite of the horrible hangovers that would follow.
I remember that quite well—as a perennially broke student in my college years, I often found myself with an empty pocket. But only a few bucks were enough for the cheapest of poisons.
Today, however, cachaça is reaching a more refined audience thanks to the efforts of a handful of dedicated companies that have done a lot to bring the spirit to a higher level. “Cachaça is today in the same position that vodka, chianti and tequila were about fifteen years ago,” explains Steve Luttman, producer of Leblon, one of the more recent brands specially created for the international market. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ernest Barteldes
Not too long ago, the words “Brazilian” and “wine” would hardly be put together without a stern warning against a horrible hangover. Such a notion stemmed from the fact that many wines from that country—which has also brought us caipirinhas and rodizio churrascarias—were mostly inexpensively priced, mass-produced table wines that could only be found around ethnic communities for the consumption of homesick Brazilians.
Not that decent wine did not exist there—it simply had not been made available for the general public (after all, Brazilians are not exactly known for their preference for fermented grapes), and much less for export. Carefully made wines have existed in Brazil’s southern region for over a century, where Italian and Portuguese immigrants began creating their own vintages in small, family-based businesses. However, the resulting product was mostly available to restaurants or to a small niche of consumers in boutique wine shops, and almost none of that production was sold abroad.
That began to change about ten years ago, when Brazilian winemakers—well aware of the success their competitors in Argentina and Chile were having abroad—began heavily investing in equipment and personnel specifically with these previously untapped (at least for them) markets in mind. Read the rest of this entry »