Recently, I traveled back to my home state, Rio Grande do Sul, in south Brazil to spend some time with my family and give it a break to airplanes and long, long lay-overs. I decided then, to explore more locally, to visit places near me and re-discover the beauties of the place I'm from. It feels so refreshing to my eyes to go around and see things I didn't see before being far away for so long.
Rio Grande do Sul is the southern-most state of Brazil and where, many say you can get a taste of Europe without leaving the country. With a strong influence from German, Italian, Polish and Portuguese descendants and also a subtropical climate, it's possible to experience what you wouldn't imagine to see in Brazil.
In the region of Vale do Vinhedos, mainly in Bento Gonçalves and Caxias do Sul, 90% of Brazilian wine is produced, and that's where I chose to make a wine tour, a experience you have to try if you visit this part of the country.
I visited the Vale dos Vinhedos in summer but I would recommend going on winter for a more "European experience", and also for getting the most of the local tourism and gastronomy (you might see some snow too! Yes, SNOW).
I only had one day and was able to visit three different wineries in the region. I visited Peterlongo in Garibaldi and Cantina Strapazzon and Aurora in Bento Gonçalves, but there other great options, from small producers to big scale companies. They all offer a wine tour and wine tasting. Most places charge an small fee for the tour, with the option of tasting or not their wine. Aurora was free.
I'm not a sommelier but I definitely love wine and this was a great cultural experience, even for me who is already familiar with the region.
Also, do not miss the Caminhos de Pedra, a tourist route of 12 km in the Serra Gaúcha. In the route you can find preserved stone houses from Italians immigrants, wineries, handicrafts, shops and a very rich gastronomy.
You should definitely put South Brazil in your route if you are visiting the country. It's a complete different experience that you won't want to miss!
Check out the pictures: