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  • Writer's pictureCláudio Giordano

Luiz Pereira Barreto, pioneer of Viticulture in Brazil.

Luiz Pereira Barreto is an extraordinary figure in our history: philosopher, doctor, scientist, biologist, politician, agronomist, journalist, he became famous in the exercise of all these qualifications; and, as my friend Luís Eduardo Pio Pedro reminded me, his performance in the wine-growing area, that is, vineyards and wine, was no less significant.

The son of wealthy farmers, Luiz Pereira Barreto was born in Resende (RJ-1840) and died in São Paulo (SP-1923). At the age of 15 he traveled to Europe, entered the University of Brussels and in 1865 received a doctorate in medicine and natural sciences.

Back in Brazil, he settles down as a doctor in Jacareí (SP), gradually advancing in politics. He writes and publishes (1874/1876) in two volumes the work The Three Philosophies, based entirely on the positivist theory of Comte, of whom he became a disciple and disseminator. At that time he entered the field of agriculture and became a successful coffee grower. In 1880, he dedicated himself to the public sanitation campaign in the fight against epidemics, especially yellow fever.

As a politician, he joined the Republican Party and defended his ideas in articles published in A Província de São Paulo (later O Estado de S. Paulo). He moved from Jacareí to the capital of São Paulo and ended up owning, in the Pirituba region, a farm with 110 bushels where 40,000 coffee trees and 10,000 vines thrive. Keeping an eye on Pasteur's recent experiences in viticulture, he sends a letter to the director of the Liao School of Viticulture, Victor Pulliat, requesting copies of a rustic grape variety. Having received the seedlings, he cultivated them; a year later, instead of a letter communicating his results, he sent bunches of legitimately European grapes to the same scientist, magnificent fruits that caused surprise in France, after news in the press. Dr Pulliat, delighted, wrote to the director of the Agricultural School of Montpellier, Professor Foex, saying: I have just received some bunches of grapes that Dr. Barrett, from Sao Paulo. If Brazil had half a dozen men like Dr. Barreto, European viticulture would be defeated”.

According to Pereira Barreto, the European did not consider the vine as just any bush, but as a real person, a member of the family, a second companion that he always loved and adored. He was convinced that Brazil could produce not only coffee and rubber, but also wine and thereby attract European settlers in voluntary emigration.

In this way, he transformed the Pirituba site into a true agricultural experimental station, bringing together more than 400 varieties of grapes, from France, Portugal, England, Germany, Syria, among other countries.

The success of Pereira Barreto's vines was publicly presented and praised in 1897, when the “Exhibition of Grapes” was held in São Paulo, sponsored by Dona Veridiana Prado.

Here is the record that the physician and poet Martins Fontes left us in his book Nós, the bees (São Paulo, 1936, pp. 82-84):

“About the prodigious 'Festival of the Grape', held in Jundiaí, during the month of January 1934.

Thirty-seven years ago [1897, therefore], during the winemaking phase of Pirituba, there was a great exhibition in São Paulo of grapes harvested there, on the farm of the remarkable dreamer Luís Pereira Barreto, who in this conquest had buried two enormous fortunes. The event was sponsored by the venerable Paulista Dona Veridiana Prado. The exhibition became an elegant and mundane party and, on the last day, the beautiful bunches were up for auction, for the benefit of Santa Casa, all of which reached very high prices, of contos de réis. The divine Olavo Bilac was then passing through São Paulo and wrote a witty ode in this regard, preserved by heart by me and Veiga Miranda, in which, glorifyingly, Pereira Barreto is blessed as a Genius.

The Naturalization of Bacchus

High Priest, Lyeu, Father of Bacchae,

who presides over consumption

of scented curls,

of the pampanosas vines!

O great Bacchus, student of Silenus,

fat, beardless and handsome!

You, who among the Nysian nymphs, when you were little,

you were a scandalous drunkard!

You, who dragged at the pace of the panthers,

scattering peppers along the way,

wreathed with twigs and ivy,

to India you brought the fame of good wine!

You, O Father of Joy,

of Brasília Nation, which you finally know,

on this radiant day,

the gratitude you deserve!

'Cause already tired

to reign abroad,

I see you, Bacchus, naturalized

Brazilian citizen!

From Silver to Amazon

and from the Atlantic to the Andes,

patriotic monas

will rumble frantically and big!

They will collapse with more intensity,

more frequent, the rains,

since - O happiness! - let's have good grapes!

There is no longer any wine to shame us:

we will not drink Verde, nor Collares,

nor Bordeaux, nor Marsala, nor Bourgogne,

from beyond the seas!

Today, if my hand raises the glass,

from ancient slavery I don't remember:

- it has finally dawned on my throat,

the Seven of September!

Hail, fawn glow of Independence!

Hail, noble conquest!

We can drink without indecency:

the thirst is nativist!

And in tears of happiness I melt,

I see thee, O Bacchus, naturalized,

thanks to Doctor Barreto's genius,

thanks to Mrs. Veridiana Prado.


(Pseudonym of OLavo Bilac)

Pereira Barreto specialized in viticulture and oenology to such an extent that for more than ten years he collaborated in the European press (France in particular), instructing winegrowers in the old world. On viticulture he published: La Viticulture à Sant Paul (1888); The Vine and Civilization (1896); The Art of Making Wine - Winemaker's Manual (1900).

This information that the reader has just read was extracted from texts published on the Internet by José Eduardo de Oliveira Bruno and Hélio Begliomini. Closing his article, Begliomini says: “Luiz Pereira Barreto was a stupendous man with a multifarious personality. In addition to being a doctor, surgeon, philosopher, politician, scientist, farmer and journalist, he was an idealist, humanitarian, pioneer and patriot, who, in all the most diverse fronts of activities where he worked, stood out as an industrious, wise, erudite and honest”.

The works and writings of Luiz Pereira Barreto are very rare. BVReppucci has a copy of A Arte de Fabricar o Vinho - Manual do Vinicultor, in which the preface explains the author who was commissioned by the Secretary of Agriculture of the state of Minas to write the work intended to be distributed to Minas Gerais winemakers. Given the mental and practical difficulties that always hinder any nascent industry, he writes, he was recommended above all clarity of exposition: “to put in the hands of the novice vinedresser a summarized book, which would serve as a working tool, teaching in clear terms and precise the technique of winemaking operations, giving the whole art of making wine a practical character, without, however, completely sacrificing the theoretical thread that inspires and directs the entire work of winemaking.”

He continues: “Summarizing clearly is not an easy task. I can only assure you that I meditated on the subject at length, in the effort to win readers, reconciling accuracy with brevity of exposition for your benefit. I tried as much as possible to establish the art and science of wine among us as a scientific routine.

But I did it in such a way that, even within the routine, our most modest winemakers get to know the theoretical reason why wine sometimes turns out good, sometimes turns out bad, and so they can remove obstacles in the future. To the dark routine that still prevails in most of the wine-growing countries of Europe, I tried to replace a rational routine, based on science, according to which everyone can enjoy the inestimable services that Pasteur's discoveries pour out everywhere. With this safe starting point, our new winegrowers enter the fight much better armed, freed from secular prejudices.

In the state of Minas, a lot of wine is already produced, quite tolerable, very drinkable, well worthy of the attention of the public authorities as an industry that claims to be asking for protection against the criminal competition of counterfeits.

Just because of the lack of elementary exact knowledge on the matter, every year they allow miners to lose a large part of their harvest, because they do not know how to prevent or cure the diseases inherent to wine.”

Were enough 140 pages for Luiz Barreto to develop the techniques of wine production, in clear and unpretentious language, and short, objective chapters supported by a solid bibliography (BVR has ten of the eleven works listed by him in the bibliography).

In spite of even having a city with the name of Pereira Barreto, the figure of Luiz Pereira Barreto and his competent and wide contribution in all the areas in which he worked still suffers from publicity. As is the case here mentioned of his remarkable performance in the area of viticulture.

Translated by Google Translate.

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