20th Anniversary Celebrations: Pato & Wouters Nossa S.lera Desde 2001 & Biodynamic Certification
I was deeply sorry to miss an anniversary dinner celebrating Filipa Pato’s 20th harvest last October. Nonetheless, I did get the (Baga Terroirista since 2001) T-shirt. And not only. Pato and William Wouters – her sommelier husband and partner-in-wine – sent me their latest collaborative release. It is a 630-bottle solera-aged espumante and bespoke decanter (designed by Wouters). Both very fine indeed, they were no little compensation for not making the dinner. What a kind thought!
Over the years, Pato has alluded to a special espumante (sparkling wine) she had in the works. The oldest wine in the couple’s self-described “classic method ‘anti-vintage’ blend” is from the winemaker’s first harvest in 2001. Pato continued adding to the blend (which comprises several vintages vinified in 500-600l pipas). Following lengthy bottle ageing, the solera blend was disgorged on 9 July 2021, a flower day.
In line with her ‘wines with no make up’ philosophy, Pato began applying biodynamic treatments in 2008 and started the conversion towards biodynamic certification by Demeter at the end of 2014. She is a brave soul. When we had spoken just after vintage that year, Pato was still reeling from the wet year. Painting a vivid picture she explained, “it’s very tiring to pick with two kilos of clay on each feet.”
I suspect Demeter certification – awarded for 2020/2021 – could not have been a better 20th anniversary gift. The cherry on the cake since, as she pointed out when I visited in 2016, biodynamics has reaped fast dividends, “invigorating soils, resulting in earlier ripening [hugely important for late cycle Baga in this climate) and healthier, happier vines.” Keen to spread the word, Pato has been on the Board of Portugal’s Associação biodinâmica (ABIOP) since 2020.
Pato & Wouters Nossa Espumante Extra Bruto Em S.lera Desde 2001 (Bairrada DOC)
This powerful, singular, beautifully structured Espumante triples down on ‘B.’ From Bairrada, of course, it is a blend of Bical and Baga grapes with a smattering of other (field blend) varieties. Golden in hue, it has a persistent bead and great complexity to nose and textural palate. Like an ocean’s current, well-focused, mouth-watering acidity propels wave after wave of flavour. Fresh, bruised and buttered apples, nuts, Calissons, brioche, smoky bacon fat nuances (Baga on chalky clay soil?) It’s plenty umami, with an almost salty, high-toned fino-like edge. Profoundly flavoursome and long, long, long, it demands attention, but is provocative, never tiring. Truly a sparkling wine to savour, Wouters recommends pairing it with meat and cheese, not just fish dishes. Zero dosage; the wine was not filtered and minimal sulphites (20 mg/l) were added. 12%
With so many layers of flavour, no wonder Wouters was keen for it to be decanted. He himself designed the decanter, which was made in Portugal. A great ambassador for hospitality – the act and the industry (he is President of the Association of Sommeliers) – Mr bonhomie personified has ensured that the decanter is not only easy on the eye, but easy to handle and fits neatly into an ice bucket. Wouters also came up with the ‘spoon’ to remove the staple and release the cork, itself I’m told a carefully chosen Amorim three-disc expedition stopper maximised by NDTech technology for longevity. Not that my bottle lasted!