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.

Escola do Frevo – Pernambuco

In the comments of my recent article on Carnival and Frevo in Recife (you can find a link to it a few posts down from this one), a video was posted about a Frevo school in Pernambuco which won 2nd place at an international dance contest in New York. Excellent stuff!

There’s No Need to Fish For Compliments Here

Update: I expanded this article from 2011 to twice the size. Enjoy!


Midway up the coast of Pernambuco, less than 40 miles south of Recife, lies Porto de Galinhas (literally, Chicken Port), one of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches. Since 2001, the Brazilian magazine Viagem & Turismo has held an annual contest for its readers to elect the best Brazilian travel options and Porto de Galinhas dominated in the beach category for the first ten years straight, making it the paragon of paradise.

Aside from being located on the Northeast’s serene coastline, with its abundance of beaches, Porto de Galinhas isn’t just pretty to look at. When the high tide pulls out, natural tidal pools are created around the reefs that are both warm and transparent, making them perfect for catching an eyeful of tropical fish. Other activities include either sunbathing or riding dune buggies on the white sands of any of the 10 local beaches, and taking canoe rides through the mangroves.


The founding of the tourism hotspot is perhaps as interesting as the destination is beautiful. It starts with the fact that the largest Brazilian tract of massapê soil (which is very fertile and rich with a reddish-brown color) can be found in the Ipojuca municipality of Pernambuco, within Brazil’s tropical, coastal region. One of the neighborhoods that makes up Ipojuca happens to be Porto de Galinhas. It’s the unique soil, as well as the region’s port, that made Ipojuca the perfect place for the European colonizers to start cultivating and selling sugarcane. In fact, the previous name of Porto de Galinas was Porto Rico, not only due to the wealth it made the local sugarcane barons but also to the large amounts of brazilwood that left the country from its shores, en route to Europe.

So, how did such a pretty place receive such a strange name as “Chicken Port”? Well, there are two theories [1]. The most oft-repeated one says that with slavery in Brazil being abolished in the late 1800s, some slave traders saw a big part of their livelihood being taken away thus they continued importing slaves, albeit in secret. The port soon served as the main point of arrival for illegal slaves in the northeast of Brazil. It is said that the slaves were frequently hidden below the crates of chickens (more specifically, helmeted guinea-fowl, known as galinhas d’Angola, or Angolan chickens, in Portuguese), which were favored for consumption by the Pernambucan upper-class. Upon the arrival of new “merchandise”, one would hear the phrase “tem galinha nova no porto!” (“there’s new chicken at the port!”). This was code for announcing a new shipment of slaves and, with time, the name of the beach eventually changed. The second theory says many of the first African slaves brought to the region were of the Fula people, also known as Pheul, which in French sounds like Poule (chicken).


These Days

Today, the chickens are hand-painted, made of coconut shells and tree trunks, by local artisans to later be bought by the purchasing power and for the viewing pleasure of the many tourists to the region. This wasn’t always so, though, as it was only a few years ago that the local artists decided to find a marketable image that would serve as their golden egg, so to speak.

Chickens are definitely not the only thing being sold in Porto de Galinhas. Aside from the endless beauty of the barrier reefs and the natural pools, there are now resorts, nightclubs and refined restaurants that have moved in and exist side by side with the rustic charm that helped to make this old fishing village so popular in the 1990′s. With all the “development” and changes, I can’t help but wonder where the locals go to “get away from it all”.

Oficina Brennand – Recife

I was looking at a tourism magazine from Recife called Recife Te Quer, from January of 2008 that a good friend sent me via mail a few years back and I found a really cool building with suggestive sculptures called Oficina Brennand. What follows is a bit on the location and the Pernambucan artist behind it, which I borrowed and translated from the official site. First, a few words on the artist Francisco Brennard, by acclaimed novelist Jorge Amado.

“Today he is unique – him and only him – a Brazilian artist with an assured place in the club of the principal (artists) of contemporary art. Of such importance, that alone he proclaims the universality of Brazilian art.”

Oficina Brennand

The Oficina Brennand came about in 1971 in the ruins of the ceramic factory dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, as a materialization of recalcitrant project of the artist Francisco Brennard. An old brick and roofing factory inherited by his father, installed on a piece of property called Santos Cosme and Damião, it lies in the historic neighborhood of Várzea, surrounded by what remains of the Atlantic Forest and on the waters of the Capibaribe river. The ceramics of São João (the former sugar plantation where the current property lies) became the inspiring source and depository of the story of the Pernambucan artist.

A unique place in the world, the Oficina Brennand can be found in a monumental architectural conjunct of originality, in a constant process of mutation, where the works associate themselves with the architecture to give form to subterranean, dark, sexual, religious, wild and abyssal universe.

The presence of the artist in his continuous work of creation gives the Oficina a daring character, identifying it as an intrinsically alive institution and with a dynamic that leaves the future of the project a mystery, even to the one who is creating it.

Visitation hours are from 8AM to 5PM, from Monday to Thursday and 8AM to 4PM on Friday. The admission fee is R$4.

Cartola – A dessert I would’ve eventually invented

Again, at Street Smart Brazil, there’s a post on desserts from Pernambuco and one caught my eye. It’s the cartola and although I don’t add chocolate, it’s something I’ve been doing for years without knowing it had a name. My invention just followed a grilled cheese, banana and cinnamon sandwich I used to get at the lanchonetes in Rio, only I wouldn’t use bread in the recreation.

“One of my favorite desserts is Cartola: sliced fried banana with queijo mateiga or coalho (two types of very delicious Brazilian cheese), topped with with cinnamon and chocolate. Oh it is so good! It is one of those things that you have to try; the list of ingredients may not sound that exciting, but the dish is fantastic. In fact, the state of Pernambuco has been discussing the idea of officially recognizing Cartola as cultural heritage.”

Cartola Sobremesa Recife Pernambuco < Cartola

from the blog Cozinha Cani.

For more Pernambucan desserts, go here!

Bezerros: Creative Capital of Pernambuco

Recife Guide did a feature on the city of Bezerros in the interior of Pernambuco (about 50 min from Recife). Judging by the photos alone, it looks like a great place to be! Of special note is the Papangu Carnival and the Serra Negra region. Check out the link to know more!

For a peak at the Carnival there, see the photo slideshow below from photographer Jose Alves Gonçalves (with a song by Lenine called “Leão do Norte”).

The lure of Recife

Picture 1

“RECIFE, BRAZIL — Luca Sinesi, 36, came here for the first time in 2003, with no idea that this beach-fringed port city would become his permanent home.

“I left the city in 2005, but I missed it so much I was back within six months,” said Mr. Sinesi, an Italian who is now Brazil field director for the British charity International Service. “Recife has a way of life which sets it apart from cities in the south of Brazil.

“Neighbors know each other, help each other, and share living spaces,” he said. “It is common to see people playing music or singing together on a street corner or in a bar, or playing football long into the night in the local square.”

The city, the second-largest urban center in northeastern Brazil, after Salvador, has just over 1.5 million residents. About 2 million more call its sprawling suburbs home.” – NYT (more here)

Tours now available in Recife

Here’s an email I received from Paul over at Recife Guide about the tours he now offers, so I thought I’d help him out. 


I thought you may like to know about updates to the Recife Guide Site.

Recife Guide is offering walking tours of Recife and Olinda in English, Spanish, French, German and Portuguese. Details of each tours, and links to video highlights, have been added.

Four 1/2 day walking tours of Recife include visits to most of the interesting sites around Recife Antigo and the Downtown area. Tours 1&2 or 3&4 can be combined to make 1-day tours.

The tour of UNESCO World Heritage site, Olinda, is a 1-day tour.

Other tours will be added in the coming months. I also plan to add DAY TRIPS and SHORT ADVENTURES (2-3 day trips).

If you want any other information please email me

Best Regards

Although the video below shows Fernando de Noronha quite a bit, you can get an idea of Recife and Olinda and the beaches that dot the coast from watching the short clip.

Recife Guide – New link!

Paul, an Englishman who has a thing for Brazil (sounds like someone I know), has created an online guide to Recife. More specifically, as the name of the title here suggests, he loves the Pernambucan Capital and had been visiting on and off for 12 years before taking the plunge and moving there, which he did 4 years back. 

The site, although new, looks promising and I trust the resolve of the owner to make it into a great guide (which includes tours and services). Here’s the link!

Recife Guide!

Chico Science – SDBT Part 3

Another great Singer that Died Before his Time.

Chico Science

Chico Science (March 13, 1966 – February 2, 1997) was a Brazilian singer and composer and one of the founders of the Mangue Bit cultural movement. He died in a car accident in 1997 in Recife, Pernambuco, at the age of 30.

Born in the Rio Doce neighbourhood of Olinda in the state of Pernambuco in Brazil’s Northeast, as a little boy he would sell crabs that he caught himself in the city’s mangrove swamps.

He became the lead singer and major creative driving force of the groundbreaking Mangue Bit band called Chico Science & Nação Zumbi (CSNZ). Influenced by such musicians as James Brown, Grandmaster Flash and Kurtis Blow, their music cleverly fused rock, funk, and hip hop with maracatu and other traditional rhythms of Brazil’s Northeast. Chico had a powerful stage presence that was compared by some to that of Jimi Hendrix.

Before CSNZ, Chico was a member of the bands Orla Orbe and Loustal (the latter named after the French comic book artist and cartoonist Jacques de Loustal).

Around 1991, Chico Science, along with singer Fred 04 of the band Mundo Livre S/A, founded the Mangue Bit cultural movement in response to dire economic and cultural stagnation in Recife and Olinda. CSNZ made their US debut at New York’s Central Park Summer Stage in 1995, opening for Gilberto Gil, with whom he collaborated during the encore. While in NY, they also performed additional shows at CBGB’s, SOB’s and at Bryant Park as part of the JVC Jazz Festival, on a bill with the Ohio Players.

Chico Science & Nação Zumbi toured several times in Europe and brought massive attention to the new generation of Brazilian artists in the 1990s. With only two full albums released during his lifetime “Da Lama Ao Caos’ (‘From Mud To Chaos) and ‘Afrociberdelia’ (as well as a postuhumous double CD of remixes and live recordings “CSNZ’), his influence and vision became the foundation to a whole new generation of musicians in Brazil. Chico’s genius was to celebrate the rich and fascinating local culture of his home state of Pernambuco state and fused it with all the modern global trends of the 1990s – Computers (hence the word bit, first confused for and now accepted as a musical beat), Mud, Misery, Cyberspace, Hip Hop and roots music co-existed peacefully in Chico’s world.

Nação Zumbi have continued to record and tour internationally after Chico’s death. Many artists have been greatly influenced by the Mangue Bit movement and by Chico himself. These artists include Cordel do Fogo Encantado, Mombojó e Otto, going on to Sepultura (more specifically the album Roots), Cássia Eller (interpreting his songs Corpo de Lama and Quando a Maré Encher), Fernanda Abreu (Raio X album) and Arnaldo Antunes (O Silêncio album).

Here he is singing Maracatu Atômico