May Wines of the Month: pure and elegant Bairrada
Last month’s Bairrada Masterclass at Portuguese Wine School was postponed, so there’s still a chance to taste a spectacular line up of Bairrada’s best. And let me tempt you with my May Wines of the Month – Bairrada beauts, which I showed in London and Amsterdam last month.
Filipa Pato & William Wouters Nossa Calcario Bical 2016 (Bairrada)
at Bar Douro’s ‘in conversation’ wine dinner with Pato & Wouters last month, this favourite Bairrada white is one of the rather tasty selection of the couples’ wines available by the glass on Bar Douro’s special’s board until 22 May. Pato didn’t make an amphora (Post Quer…s) white in this vintage, instead blending it into white flagship Nossa (it comprises 20% of this vintage, the balance of which was fermented and aged in 500l French oak casks, 10% new). The skin contact (from the amphora component) makes quite a difference to the structure and texture of this old vine Bical, making for a tauter, firmer style – on a rail. It has a very subtle granular texture too. Since I first tasted it in September, Nossa Calcario 2016 has opened up a tad, showcasing Bairrada’s (indeed Ois de Bairro’s) trademark chalky clay-derived smoky, mineral signature to great effect. In the mouth, it has a delicious purity of firm, stony, quince and perfumed pear fruit, leavened by a lemony, grapefruity, very persistent wash of acidity and lick of cedar spice. With terrific (saline) freshness and line, it has lots yet to give – we enjoyed a superb bottle of 2011 at the dinner and I’d stash this one away too. 12% abv. It is imported/sold by the case by Clark Foyster. (Incidentally, Pato’s & Wouter’s junior white – FP Branco 2016 features in my just out Decanter Expert’s Choice on Portuguese Whites – it’s a terrific buy, as is the luminous follow up 2017 shown at Bar Douro).
Niepoort Lagar de Baixo 2015 (Bairrada)
Pato’s & Wouter’s Nossa Calcario Red 2015 could easily have occupied this spot too – like this wine, it is an elegant expression of this outstanding Baga vintage. But let me share the love. From the off, Niepoort’s delicate yet intense Bagas have entranced. I described first release, Baiju 2011, as weighing in at a bantam-like 12.5% alcohol. In 2015 (which some might have taken as licence to extract away), Lagar de Baixo has just 11.5% alcohol. Yet this slender, deep ruby, violet-scented Baga is leveraged to the hilt with delicious intensity of flavour. Mineral-sluiced al dente red and black cherry fruit has vivid near-the-stone/skin lift and a lively, peppery edge. Incipient mushroom and pine forest floor notes made for a great match with truffled pecorino (lots of back palate truffle resonance). The acidity is ripe and absolutely at one with the fruit, making for a very balanced, even flow of flavour. Wonderfully pellucid. A perfect summer red which, doubtless, has the chops to age if you can resist its siren call. 11.5% £192 in bond/case of 12 at Fine & Rare
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