Syrah is one grape variety I would certainly not have associated with the Bairrada region, the land famous for my favourite Portuguese red grape variety Baga.
Foreign grape varietals are few and far between in these parts. But this did not stop Dirk Niepoort, one of Portugal’s most highly regarded winemakers, from setting out to produce a top-quality Syrah from a small plot of the grapes he planted some 20 years ago at his Bairrada property.
Niepoort is a big fan of the northern Rhone style of Sryah, where reds such as Hermitage are a more elegant and dry interpretation of the variety that is quite different to the richer and fruitier style of Syrah produced in the New World or, indeed, elsewhere here in Portugal.
The aim at his Quinta de Baixo winery (which of course also produces excellent Baga) was to make a premium Syrah in the style of a Hermitage wine and it seems he has hit the nail on the head.
I recently tried the 2012, having picked up a bottle at Apolónia when it was on special offer, reduced by 25% from the normal price of €29.95. The wine has very little oak influence having been aged in huge used “tonel” barrels.
On the nose, there are herbal and dark fruit notes, medium bodied in the mouth with firm yet delicate tannins, beautifully balanced with the trademark peppery and berry fruit flavours of the variety. Long dry finish.