For the love of Baga

If I am ever asked to single out my favourite Portuguese grape varieties, the answer is always Alvarinho for white and Baga for red. Of course I do appreciate all of Portugal’s indigenous varieties, but when it comes to red varietals, Baga for me stands head and shoulders above the rest. This is, of course, due to personal taste, and Baga may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

The thick-skinned, high yielding grapes that until not so long ago were the only red variety permitted in the Bairrada region produce wines that are typically high in tannins and acidity, but this is an incredibly versatile grape.

Harvested early, it produces excellent rosés and sparkling wines but when left to fully ripen it can produce classy and elegant reds that lend themselves especially well to extended bottle ageing. Just recently I enjoyed a bottle of 2001 Quinta do Moinho, a Baga red from “Mr. Bairrada” himself, Luís Pato. It was outstanding, comparable to a good Barolo of similar age.

This is one of the styles of wine being made by the top producers; medium to full bodied with mature berry fruit on the nose and big tannins that simply disappear with age, leaving silky smooth dry reds that are often compared to Barolo.
The other style is a lighter-bodied wine, still best drunk after at least five or six years in the bottle but already approachable after a couple of years. These wines are sometimes compared to Pinot Noir and especially Burgundy. They are light and elegant, fruity on the nose and become more velvety smooth in the mouth with each year that passes.

This nicely sums up wine for this week: Vadio Bairrada 2012, usually priced at €11.95 in Apolónia but reduced by 25% to €8.95 until September 25.

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]