Wines of the Brazilian Sertão

vinicola-ouro-verde-da-miolo-localizada-no-municipio-de-casa-nova-na-bahia-1367854476183_956x500The 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.

Brazilians least likely to understand food labels


The Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense (IDEC) participated in a coordinated study (PT) by Consumers International (CI) in 9 countries — in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas — about the nutritional labels on industrialized foods and concluded that Brazilians are the least able to identify nutritional information on the labels.

More than 3,000 consumers responded to a quiz, which demonstrated the challenges in choosing a healthy diet. Brazil, the 3rd country with the most participants (786), behind Slovenia and Holland, was the one that obtained the worst results, getting 28% of the answers correct. They were shown images of popular industrialized food with and without simple nutritional information. In Brazil’s case, there were 4 types of cream crackers (no period, seems Globo didn’t finish the sentence)

— A lack of information is universal. The other participating countries also don’t have nutritional information on the front of the packaging, which creates difficulty for the consumer. The result here (in Brazil) was the worst due to not having the habit of reading this information and the difficulty of understanding it. The information out there today isn’t the clearest. There are many technical words. And this confuses more than it helps the consumer — affirms IDEC nutritionalist and researcher Ana Paula Bortoletto.


When the same product would contain clear and consistent information on the front part of the package, starting with the “nutritional traffic light”, the percentage of correct answers in the identification of the amount of fat and salt was at 84%, an amount three times higher than without the “traffic light”. The traffic light labels were based on a proposal by the Food Standards Agency of the UK: with red indicating foods rich in sugar, salt, saturated fat; yellow indicating average levels; and green indicating low levels.

The number of correct answers increased even more, passing 90%, when the “nutritional traffic light” was used to compare one product with another.

— As far as sugar, for example, in Brazil the industries aren’t obligated to state the amount of this nutrient on the label, which makes the task of choosing the healthiest options more difficult. The quiz didn’t allow for exact duplication of the label analysis done personally, however, it showed important results in relation to the use and understanding of the “nutritional traffic light” on the package — explains Ana Paula.

The quiz was available on the IDEC portal, accepting Brazilian consumer answers, from the 22nd of April to the 5th of May.

The results obtained by Consumers International and its members were presented to the member countries of the World Health Organization last Thursday evening, during the 66th World Health Assembly, in Geneva. WHO members were asked to ratify, implement and go beyond the recommendations relating to nutrition of WHO’s Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases. – Source (PT)

“Olha o Globo!” – Brothers, Biscuits & Beaches

(with Two Brothers in the background)

Ask any beach-going Brazilian that has been to Rio de Janeiro what images come to mind when they think of Rio and I’d bet Biscoito Globo is one of them. The famous doughnut-shaped powder biscuits are as common a sight as the sunbathers in Ipanema applauding the beautiful sunsets, silhouetted by Two Brothers hill. Speaking of brothers, three from São Paulo deserve some applause, too, as they are responsible for another pleasing sight, one that can be sweet, like catching some rays, or salty, like the sea itself.

The brothers’ success lies in the simplicity of their product. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Two flavors – Sweet or salty
  • Easy to recognize – Always the same packaging
  • Easy to open – Good for kids (though bad for those who want to close it, meaning you should eat them all)
  • Strictly word of mouth – No advertising costs and savings passed on to the customer
  • Great with another favorite – Often sold with soft-drink Matte-Leão (and vendors wear Matte-Leão shirts)
  • Easy to remember – Globo is a name everyone knows

The rest is history (or, at least the next part is)…


According to the Biscoito Globo site, it all started in 1953 when, after their parents separated, the three Ponce brothers went to live with their cousin who had a bakery in Ipiranga, in São Paulo. It was there that they learned to make powder biscuits with their cousin, which were sold on the streets of downtown São Paulo.

In 1954, taking advantage of a large religious conference in Rio de Janeiro, the brothers decided to sell their biscuits in the carioca capital. With their recipe for success, the Ponce brothers foresaw that, given the biscuits characteristics, Rio de Janeiro would be the ideal market for what they were selling.

The powder biscuit was given the name Globo in honor of the bakery contracted to make them in Botafogo. The year was 1955 and the biscuits were sold in the Globo bakery and in seven others, owned by the same people. Realizing the large demand for them, the Ponce brothers started to sell them to other bakery chains and in 1963, they formed a partnership with a Portuguese baker, an expert in breads.


There are other positive aspects that accompany a bag of Biscoito Globo, such as the fact that it’s perfect for making one’s stomach believe it’s fuller than it is. After all, who wants to swim on a full stomach? Other associated benefits mean the customer receives something that is low in calories, low in fat, without neither coloring nor preservatives.

The biscuit vendors are called ‘ambulantes‘ and they can buy a package for 60 cents then turn around and sell it for an average price of R$1 on the beach. A pretty good deal where everyone walks away happy. Since the famous snacks don’t contain the aforementioned preservatives, they aren’t sold to the supermarkets, meaning the customers must seek out the individual vendors if they want to get their hands on the biscuits. On the beaches of Rio, that’s not a hard thing to do because the vendors are omnipresent, the packaging is unique (save for a few imitators), and the holler is the same…”Olha o Globo!”

Originally written for Street Smart Brazil.

Picanha – The Brazilian Brand of Meat

The rear of the steer (or heifer) is the most sought-after piece of meat in Brazil. In fact, I’d bet that Brazilian scientists have dreamed of one day creating an animal that only produces such meat.

One might not know it by its name in English, a cut of beef whose technical denomination alternates between the ‘rump cover’ and ‘rump cap’, but in Portuguese it’s called picanha. The reason Americans might not know about it is due to the fact that American butchers generally divide up that region into other cuts like the rump, the round and the loin. That being said, there isn’t much of a point in discussing what picanha is and isn’t because there’s a very slim chance of finding a single American cut in your local supermarket to define it.

For such a great piece of meat, it has an unusual name. One story behind the name speaks of a once important Brazilian industrialist, named Francisco “Baby” Pignatari, who used to eat at a churrascaria called “Bambu” in São Paulo and his favorite type of meat was the top sirloin. On one occasion, the restaurant served him another kind of meat by mistake. Not initially noticing the difference, he ate it and loved it, at which point he asked the Argentine server about the region of the animal that the meat came from. The Argentine said it came from the part “donde se pica la aña“, which is apparently Argentine Spanish for “where one brands (the cow with the hot iron)”. From there, it is said the name picanha is derived (pica + aña).

A more simple, yet slightly-related explanation comes from veterinarian Pedro Eduardo de Felício, at a university in São Paulo who says that in the south of Brazil, the branding iron is called a picanha. Over time, the area of the animal that received the branding was called by the name of the instrument that did the branding.


No matter where the name comes from, the main thing is that you enjoy every single piece! There are a few tips for doing just that. When buying picanha, experts say it should weigh less than two and a half pounds. Anything more and it is most likely you will be paying for part of the “coxão duro” (silverside), which is a tougher meat located next to the picanha cut. The layer of fat on the bottom of the piece of picanha should be about one centimeter thick, otherwise the bovine was raised and fed in an unfit manner. Also, the color of the fat should be either white or light yellow, if it’s yellower than that, it means the animal was most likely old and the meat will be tougher than normal.

As for the actual cooking part, picanha is cooked over high heat, so if you are a fan of black pepper and don’t want it to burn up in the process, add it afterwards. All the picanha I’ve ever had was well-salted while it cooked but it’s important to use rock salt instead of sea salt because the latter will most likely ruin your picanha. The best tip of all, though, is to watch a Brazilian do it!

Below is a video (in Portuguese) that you can watch with a Brazilian and learn how to choose the right piece. By browsing Youtube you can watch a variety of videos on all aspects of picanha, although if you’d rather just eat it, many major cities have churrascarias where you are able to eat until the cows come home!

Another one in English

Originally written for Street Smart Brazil.

Sara Lee to Buy Cafe Damasco

“Sara Lee Corp. is buying Brazilian coffee company Cafe Damasco for nearly $60 million as it continues to focus on its more-profitable coffee and meat businesses. The purchase of Cafe Damasco gives Sara Lee a stronger presence in Brazil, particularly in the south where the coffee company has a strong market position, Frank van Oers, CEO of Sara Lee’s international beverage and bakery business, said in a statement.

Sara Lee already has the Pilao and Caboclo coffee brands in the central regions of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Its other Brazilian coffee brands include Cafe do Ponto, Moka, and Seleto.” – Business Week

The best part of waking up is that corporate aroma in your cup

Study Says Brazilians Have Sweet Tooth

“Fruits, jello, sweets or chocolate? Which is the favorite dessert of Brazilians? The first-ever study about the Brazilian consumer’s favorite desserts shows what prevails in each region and how it occurs in relation to consumption and the will to lose weight. The study, which was released this Wednesday by the Brazilian Association of Nutrition (Abran), shows that Brazilians love sweets. More than 60% of the population chose some dessert with a base of sugar to round out their meal – generally lunch. But fruits such as apples, bananas, melons, papayas, grapes and oranges also appeared on the list.

The study was done with 2,500 people from 18 to 80 yrs old between April and July of this year. Of those interviewed, 56% were women and 44% were men. Of the total, 26% chose fruits; 13%, chocolates; 10%, jello; 9%, sweets made from fruit; 8%, milk-based caramel; 7%, ice cream; 6%, cake (when added up, sweets totaled 69%). The study showed that the higher the frequency of desserts after a meal, the less satisfied the consumer was with their weight. Those who are accustomed to eating smaller portions and avoiding desserts are generally happier with their weight. Another data point that was revealed by the research is that those who wait to eat more at night are usually more unhappy with their weight. ” – Source (in PT)

Take Your Q From Brazilian Gastronomy

Q elevates the chocolate bar to new heights of gastronomy. The recently launched confection owes its rich taste to Brazil’s finest cocoa beans and equally sensuous curves to Oscar Niemeyer, the country’s celebrated modern architect.

Q was concocted by Samantha Aquim, chef and head of the chocolate division at her family’s eponymous restaurant business. After studying with renowned chocolatier Thierry Alain in Paris, she visited cocoa farms in Bahia with a desire to explore “the magical possibilities of the perfect cocoa bean.” Aquim used a painstaking fermentation process—without adding any other ingredients or flavorings—to draw out its raw characteristics.- Source