Brazil may not be known as a haven for lovers of one of the world’s oldest beverages, but gradually the mugs of thick, syrupy Sangue de Boi (Bull's Blood) that bear more resemblance to their namesake more than a good Merlot are becoming a thing of the past, replaced by some neighbouring Latin American gems and even a few Brazilian ones. Time Out takes a look at the five best places to enjoy a drop of something that wont make your lips recoil back over your gums in shock.
Uruguyan-run and with a heavy lean towards South American reds, there are nonetheless some pretty spectacular European drops lurking downstairs in the vaults at Symposium in Laranjeiras. Seemingly collecting awards for fun from the critics, the shelves along the length of the main room boast a strong selection too, with bottles starting at around R$42 and climbing to the heavens from there. The most popular reds are both Chilean, with the La Hoya (R$56) and William Cole (R$73) leading the pack, and the cheese platters, patês and occasional live music add to the reasons to loiter. Regular wine tasting events and organised excursions into the hills of South America keep the regulars coming back.
Where once stood the popular Expand wine store now rests Cavist, with a similar love of the grape but casting their net far wider in pursuit of the perfect drop. That means downstairs you can make the most of a Veuve Clicquot champagne bar to start things off whilst browsing a vast selection of bottles, then move on to a leisurely glass at one of the most conducive spots anywhere in the city; on the upstairs terrace overlooking Praça Nossa Senhora da Paz.
The one-stop-shop for wine lovers whether you’re in need of a fancy bottle or something to carry it it, open it with or eat with it, La Botella is right on the edge of Ipanema by the canal. The food may take its inspiration from Germany, but thankfully the wine does not. So platters for ten people specifically geared towards different grapes are a nice touch, for example the Tabuá Pinot Noir; nearly 2kg of tasty cold cuts like cured ham, salami, pastrami and patê. Rua Paul Redfern 72, Ipanema (21 2512 8614/labotella.com.br). Open Mon-Fri 10am-midnight; Sat 10am-7.30pm.
Grand Cru Ipanema
Combining wine store and bistrô into one rather fine whole in the heart of Ipanema, Grand Cru rather cleverly makes all its wines available by the glass, offering wider sampling opportunities and probably some rather good leftovers for the staff at the end of a hard night of pouring. Or not, given the fancy kit they use to keep the opened bottles fresh. Europeans from the likes of Mouton Rothschild and Gosset rub shoulders with more unlikely sources including Hungary and Japan, and all can be taken to the upstairs restaurant without extra costs, to team up with a good steak (R$44) or risotto (R$42) . Rua Vinícius de Moraes 130, Ipanema (21 2247 1089/grandcru.com.br). Open Mon-Thu noon-midnight; Fri-Sat 10am-1am (shop). Open Mon-Thu noon-11pm; Fri-Sat noon-midnight (restaurant).
The small, but perfectly formed, Ovelha Negra is usually swarming with after-work winding downers from the moment it opens (around 6pm), thinning out a touch once they have negotiated a bottle so either arrive early and be prepared for it to fill up, or come a little later in the evening when things have calmed down. There is no pretension from the team behind the bar either, so if it is insider knowledge as sparkling as your glass you're after then look elsewhere. This is simply the place for a really decent Prosecco (and a damn fine sandwich if you feel so inclined, served in a paper bag on a silver tray), a cheeky bottle of Piper Heidsieck or Cuvée Lourent or a Miolo Brut to keep it Brazilian. The more unusual wines on offer change regularly too, providing a good excuse to keep coming back. Rua Bambina 120, Botafogo (21 2226 1064/champanhariaovelhanegra.com.br). Open Mon-Fri 5.30-11.30pm.
Also worth a mention:
Lidador – strictly for the take-home crowd, there are branches from Leblon to Centro and the selection, and prices, are among the best you’ll find on the high street, so you don’t always have to pay through the nose.
¡Venga! – Predominantly Spanish wines may not excite many buffs, but the selection of sangrias on offer should please anyone with a longing for the fruity punch.
Aprazivel – A straight-up restaurant and a pretty good one at that, making its way onto the list thanks to an entirely Brazilian wine list that includes Casa Valduga Brut, a 2005 Amadeu Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, and some decent Chardonnays.
Charleston Lounge - Copacabana's sleek champagne bar right next to the Palace hotel has helped inject a little old style gamour back into the neighbourhood, and the list of bubblies from around the world is enormous.