The Juazeiro/Petrolina wine grape-growing belt has close to 25,000 acres of vineyards. It’s one of the only regions in the world with 2 to 3 harvests per year (as opposed to the usual, single harvest). The grape economy generates more than 30,000 direct jobs in the Sertão, where 50% of the rural workers union leadership of Petrolina (Pernambuco) are women. In certain functions they make up 70% of the manual labor workforce. The principal jobs given to them are the “raleio” and the “pinicado”, two techniques used in the thinning of the grape bunches during their development. The most delicate activities rely upon them, women that are helping to transform the lives of their families.
The São Francisco valley is leading the way in the cultivation of grapes in tropical conditions. It’s the only wine ever to be grown in a hot, semi-arid, tropical climate where there’s sunlight for 300 days per year and no winter. All the water needed comes from the São Francisco river, thanks to irrigation technology. And the research related to wine-making being done in the region in the last decade is being led by Brazilians, who themselves are becoming worldwide experts in this emerging field.
While part of the Brazilian northeast goes through the largest dry spell in four decades, vineyards from the Sertão are able to produce up to 10 million liters of wine per year, close to 15% of the Brazilian market. Wine production started in the 1980s and has been gaining visibility in Brazil and abroad. Aside from conquering the European market, wine from the Northeastern region of Brazil goes to the US, Canada, China and also to Africa. The main wines grown in the region are: red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Nacional, Alicante, Bouschet, Ruby Cabernet, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, Tannat, and Syrah) and white (Chenin, Blanc, Moscato Canelli, Moscato Itália, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Verdejo).
The big players took notice years ago and positioned themselves firmly with strategic local partnerships. The situation then becomes a win-win because the market, both in Brazil and abroad, improves and expands while the workers of the Sertão get consistent work, and women bring in a secondary income. All that’s missing now is a Sommelier school on the banks of the São Francisco.
Watch the full report, in Portuguese only, which was also the main source for this article.