May 8th, 2011

Cachaça Country

A lovely sunny – not too hot – day in Rio de Janeiro. What better place to be? Well apparently, a trip to the mountains was called for since that is what we did! Led by our excellent Portuguese language teacher Flavia, we headed out of town to visit current and former fazendas of cachaça and coffee respectively.

Consulate trips tend to leave at crack of dawn – or so it seems on a Saturday morning. We headed out for a two hour trip deep into Rio de Janeiro state to the town of Miguel Pereira to visit the Fazenda do Anil (, producer of Magnífica Cachaça. Cachaça is the primary ingredient for the Brazilian national drink – the Caiparinha. Magnífica makes one of the best sipping cachaças as well as a range of mixed drink versions. Fazenda do Anil started producing cachaça in 1985, but the Magnífica brand was only created in 1997.

We were privileged to receive a guided tour from the owner, João Luiz Coutinho de Faria, covering the process of growing the sugar cane, separating the sugar syrup from the cane, distilling, fermenting with yeast (levadura), aging in wood barrels, mixing and bottling – very similar to a winery tour actually.
In fact, were we on a wine tour, this machine would be the stemmer/crusher.

And again, similar to grape based drinks, the beverage is aged in wood barrels. The aging period is shorter but the concept is the same.

Though not all the barrels are the equivalent of the 55 gallon version from the Napa wine country….

And finally the beverage is bottled for sale and boxed. Interestingly, many years ago I lived in California and worked as an auditor in the wine industry. I saw massive bottling operations and was thus delighted to see the humble but very effective bottling room used by Magnífica.

But, in the end, the cartons look the same!

After the tour we enjoyed a delightful tasting and sampling of the culinary treats of his wife (Ciri em molho, amendoim, etc).

Lovely setting, orchidias de chão (orchids that grow from the ground), banana trees – and the hospitality of the hosts were incredible.

Tasting included Reservada Soleira which sells for R$100 per bottle and is really quite good and worth the price. Anyway, we bought a bottle of cachaça and left regretting that we had not sprung for the really good stuff.

We were also most impressed with the furniture at the distillery and are seriously considering a return trip to the area to purchase some of these fabulous chairs – as being modeled by Jen.

Our next stop was lunch at the Summer Garden restaurant in the town of Miguel Pereira ( The name is not a translation but rather the actual restaurant name! We decided that perhaps the name sounds exotic if your native language is Portuguese. Anyway – it had a fabulous menu and delightful ambience with average lunch cost with drinks of around R$50.

After lunch we headed on to the former coffee plantation turned into sculpture garden and restored 19th century fazenda – the Fazenda Monte Alegre in Paty do Alferes in the Coffee Valley. The current owner is a sculptor and industrial artist Gabriel da Fonseca who has restored the property but not the coffee growing and processing element. Instead he and his family have restored the original home. (See more at

Additionally he has restored the grounds to display his art and to serve as a botanical garden with a wide variety of indigenous and imported plant life. Plant life includes these poinsettia bushes happily blooming in Brazil’s tropical autumn

While the plants provide a fabulous background and graceful feel, the Lúcia Miguel Pereira Sculpture Park is the highlight and simply delightful.

The artist has a clear sense of space and whimsy that works so well in this setting. (see more at: )

All in all it was a quite fun day for the whole group who took the time to gather and extend our thanks for the courtesy of our guide, driver and to Gabriel and his family.