In early November, Brazil obtained the first Geographical Indication (GI) for tropical wines. The unprecedented acknowledgment was granted to the Vale do São Francisco [San Francisco River Valley] region, which encompasses cities in Bahia and Pernambuco states. Vale dos Vinhedos [Vineyards Valley], in Rio Grande do Sul state, obtained this accolade for temperate wines in 2002. Several international agreements and conventions rule the GI subject. According to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO), GIs determine a good as originating in the territory of a country, region, or locality within that territory when a given quality, reputation, or other positive aspect is essentially attributed to its geographical origin.
The registration of the geographical indication of the Vale do São Francisco is the culmination of decades of work by producers, as well as universities and research institutions such as EMBRAPA, which financed the development of wine production in a region with a semi-arid tropical climate—very different from the temperate climate found in the main wine producing countries.
Brazilian wine has been expanding its presence in the foreign market. This is a result of the investment, both from the public and private sectors, in research and the improvement of the product’s quality. In the last five years, national wine production grew by 1.3%, and exports increased by 173.1%. The absolute revenue is low when compared to countries with wine exporting tradition, such as Argentina, which in 2021 exported 319 thousand tons, while Brazil traded only 9.1 thousand tons abroad. On the other hand, Brazil is the only country in the world that has three kinds of winegrowing: the so-called “traditional” one, carried out in the South and Southeast regions, where temperate and subtropical climates predominate; the one located in the Vale do São Francisco, where tropical wines are produced; and the third one, known as “winter winegrowing.” These are three macro-regions with different climatic and vine management characteristics. This differential aspect can and should be developed in promoting Brazilian wines abroad.
According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), three countries (Italy, France, and Spain) are currently responsible for almost half of the world’s wine production. In OIV’s 2021 largest producers ranking, Brazil holds the 14th position. Among the first 15 countries on the list, Brazil was the one with the highest production growth rate between 2020 and 2021. In this period, the national increase was 60%, while Italy recorded an increase of 2%, and France and Spain showed a decrease of 19% and 14%, respectively.
The world wine market is still buoyant. In 20 years, world exports have nearly doubled. This is a highly internationalized sector. Proof of this is that almost half the wine consumed in the world comes from exports. In 2021, the “Wine Market Internationalisation Index,” an OIV benchmark that estimates the ratio between the volume of wine exported and consumed in the world, was 47%; in 2000, it was 27%. Besides its export potential, the sector has great national socioeconomic significance. According to EMBRAPA, the production chain of wine and grape juice produced in Brazil trades about R$ 11 billion, considering its several links, distribution channels, and enotourism. Before the pandemic, the number of “wine tourists” in Brazil was increasing by an average of 10% to 15% per year.
Countries such as France, Portugal, Italy, and even the neighboring Chile and Argentina are references not only in wine production but also in enotourism. In Brazil, an example of that is the city of Bento Gonçalves, in Rio Grande do Sul state, which has developed a structure centered on local wine production to attract both business and family tourists. In 2019, the city welcomed 1.67 million tourists.
The Vale do São Francisco region has all the prerequisites to also become a destination for wine tourists. The GI achievement adds to the several qualities that the local production already presents. The success story of viticulture in the semi-arid region has similar elements to the development of the national agricultural sector. As the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rattan Lal, stated this week when visiting Brazil’s stall at COP 27, Brazilian agriculture is a miracle “due to excellence in science, the turning of science into practice, and good policies.” Tropical wine production in the Brazilian Northeast is also a miracle/success due to the same factors.
Sueme Mori is Director of International Relations at the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA).