When planning a trip, one of the first things that we usually do is make an itinerary of the museums to visit, the best beaches to stroll on, the historical sites that we want to discover or even a list of the shopping we intend to do. But an important part of the tourist experience is related to food and drink, including deciding where to eat out.
Today, gastronomic tourism is a growing worldwide trend. Famous examples of this include Oktoberfest, which takes place yearly in the city of Blumenau in the southern Santa Catarina state, or you might enjoy a trip round the cachaçarias [cachaça cellars], such as those in Brumadinho and Salinas, in the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais.
Cachaça, or pinga, is an authentically Brazilian alcoholic drink made from sugar cane. The crop is manually harvested and then goes into a milling machine within 36 hours of being cut. After a fermentation process, the product is distilled and matured. The maturation process is the final stage, during which the drink is stored, preferably in a wooden barrel, which can give the spirit a yellowish tone or change its flavour. Each type of wood adds a special note, making the drink either more or less smooth, sweet or perfumed, a characteristic which is obtained depending on the maturation time.
On 13th September, we celebrate Dia da Cachaça [Cachaça Day], in remembrance of a popular revolt that happened in Brazil in 1661 in favour of the legalisation of the drink, which had been prohibited up to that time. Now cachaça is the main ingredient in the famous Brazilian caipirinha and is produced in various Brazilian states, which can be entertaining to tour. In Brumadinho (MG), known for hosting the world's largest open-air art centre, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Inhotim [Inhotim Museum of Contemporary Art], enables visitors to follow the cachaça route, which is made up of 62 local producers. There are three circuits which offer visits to old-style alembic distilleries located on farms, and these include the opportunity to sample the regional gastronomic specialities, such as locally produced cheeses and confectionery.
In Santa Catarina, the cachaça route is situated in the Vale do Itajai, a region known for its production of craft cachaça. In the area, which was a former German and Italian colonial stronghold, another drink that can be enjoyed is beer, one of the attractions of Blumenau's Oktoberfest. The beer tour even extends up to Rio de Janeiro state, in the so-called Serra Verde Imperial circuit, which is made up of the municipalities of Petrópolis, Teresópolis, Nova Friburgo, Cachoeiras de Macacu, Santa Maria Madalena and Guapimirim, all close to the 2016 Olympic host city Rio de Janeiro. Furthermore, there are even beer tours in the interior of São Paulo state (Ribeirão Preto, Piracicaba and Itupeva) and the state of Paraná (Morretes), in the south of Brazil.
Tourists can also follow the wine route in the country's southern region. There are two main regions for wine tourism in Santa Catarina: the region of Contestado, in the cities of Água Doce, Campos Novos, Videira, Tangará, Treze Tílias and Pinheiro Preto, and the region of Serra Catarinense (São Joaquim, Lages, Campo Belo do Sul and Urubici), where some of Brazil's best-known wineries are located. These places offer visitors the opportunity to get involved in tending the vines, wine production, participating in tasting sessions and, depending on the season, helping with the grape harvest.
Similar trips await tourists who visit Rio Grande do Sul, in whose Serra Gaúcha [the Gaucho Highlands] a popular wine route is located. As well as the beautiful countryside, another attraction of the cities of Bento Gonçalves, Farroupilha, Caxias do Sul and Garibaldi are the dozens of wineries. Between the end of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth century, this region received Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish and Spanish immigrants. As well as wine, which includes sparkling wine in this region, there is a wide variety of culinary delights on offer, which is the result of the melting pot of different cultures present in these cities. And the experience can also include a journey on a steam train, known locally as the Maria Fumaça, between Bento Gonçalves and Carlos Barbosa.