One of the world's largest sporting events officially kicks off Thursday in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup gets underway, beginning a month of the world's best soccer players representing their country in an attempt to claim supremacy on the pitch.
Thirty-two teams are divvied up into eight groups of four, with a drawn-out point-getting system this fair-weather football fan can't pretend to understand (or sum up in a wine column). The best go on to further rounds, then play other winners, and so forth and so on until someone wins the final.
Back when I started in the wine industry in the mid-1990s, there were a couple of wines in our market from Brazil from a producer named Marcus James. They were reasonably priced quaffers of decent quality.
Then at some point Marcus James started sourcing grapes from Argentina rather than Brazil, and that was that.
In conjunction with the 2014 FIFA World Cup, a couple of Brazilian wines are creeping back into our market -- and they're official licensed FIFA World Cup products.
The Wines of Brasil trade organization says the country is the fifth-largest producer of grapes in the Southern Hemisphere, many produced for eating (table grapes) rather than producing wine.
Still, there are 1,100 wineries in Brazil. Most are small family operations spread across the six main wine-production regions in the southernmost area of the country. In total, 83,000 hectares are devoted to growing wine grapes.
A 2013 report notes the U.S. is their biggest export market, followed by Paraguay, Japan and Colombia. Canada sits 10th on that list.
So how is it that Canada cracks the Top 10, yet we only have two Brazilian wines in our market? Bulk wine. Brazil does brisk business selling bulk wine all over the world, and Canada is no exception.
You may have tried Brazilian wine and not even known it -- after all, the grapes in the "Bottled/blended in Canada" wines can come from pretty much anywhere.
Here are some drinks to help you cheer on your favourite World Cup team...
LIDIO CARRARO 2012 FACES RED (Brazil -- $17.65, Liquor Marts)
A blend of 11 (!) red grapes (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat and a bunch of others), the Faces red brings plum, cassis, bell pepper, blackberry and light spice on the nose. This medium-plus bodied red brings more of the dark-berry notes on the palate, with black tea, tart blackberry, blueberry and plum flavours out front as well as a splash of acidity. Try with steak or fajitas. 3/5
LIDIO CARRARO 2012 FACES WHITE (Brazil -- $17.65, Liquor Marts)
The Faces white is a blend of Chardonnay, Moscato and Riesling, and brings plenty of red-apple, spice, peach and lemon on the nose. It's a light-bodied, dry white, with red-apple and melon notes most prominent on the palate and some light acidity as well. While not a remarkably complex wine, it's fresh and fairly pleasant. 2.5/5
VAL D'OCA PROSECCO SUPERIORE BRUT (Valdobbiadene, Italy -- around $19, private wine stores)
Very pale straw in colour and with some intense effervescence, there are some serious chalky, floral and lemon-rind aromas here. It's light-bodied, very crisp and brings a hint of sweetness, which is offset nicely by a tart citrus note and that underlying chalkiness. Very good bubbly for the price that's made for warm days on the patio. 4/5
GROLSCH PREMIUM LAGER (The Netherlands -- $2.88/500-ml can, Liquor Marts)
Pale gold in colour with a bright white head, the Grolsch brings notes of toasted grain as well as a lighter greenness to it thanks to very light hops. It's a light, crisp, simple Euro lager that brings toasty malt/grain notes with a fresh grassy note -- a nice post-lawn mowing beer. 3/5
ANCHOR BREWING BREKLE'S BROWN (San Francisco -- $2.64/355-ml bottle, Liquor Marts)
Deep brown in colour and with a rich, off-white head, the Brekle's Brown brings toasted oat and malt aromas as well as lighter fruity notes and a hint of caramel. Toasted nut and malt flavours do well with the caramel component, as do lighter dried fruit notes. A nice dab of hops keeps things bright and fresh. Good stuff. 4/5
MORT SUBITE ORIGINAL KRIEK (Belgium -- $3.97/375-ml bottle, Liquor Marts)
Bottled under a sparkling wine cork, the Mort Subite is a lambic beer fermented with both cherries and elderberries. Medium pink in colour, light yeasty aromas accompanies the cherry candy note on the nose. It's both slightly sweet and sour, and delivers dried cherry flavours with a beautiful soft effervescence. Give this a try at Flatlander's Beer Festival this coming Thursday and Friday. 4/5