International Baga Day: 21st May
Has there been a better excuse than this Saturday to dust down a bottle of Baga, the Bairrada region’s iconic single varietal red? It marks the launch of International Baga Day – a Baga Friends’ initiative to celebrate their 10th anniversary, additionally the official inauguration of new Baga Friends, Luis Patrão and Eduarda Dias of Vadio.
Baga is such a unique grape because of its plasticity
Yet as Patrão would be the first to tell you, contemporary Baga is a far cry from the stereo-typical austere, tannic wines of yore. For him, “Baga is such a unique grape because of its plasticity – we can make a very elegant, sharp and delicate sparkling wine, a fresh and juicy young red, and a bold structured wine that can age for a long time. Not too many grapes in the world can do the same.” A couple of Baga Friends – Filipa Pato & William Wouters and Quinta das Bágeiras – even make fortified Baga.
All seven Baga Friends are opening their doors this Friday and Saturday to receive visitors, before assembling for a celebratory International Baga Day dinner at Rei dos Leitões. The restaurant is a local institution and, for those not into the local Baga go-to – suckling pig – the fish dishes are terrific (not to mention the wine list).
The new line-up of Baga Friends is:
- Luis Pato – Luis Pato Wines
- Dirk Niepoort – Quinta de Baixo / Niepoort
- Filipa Pato – Filipa Pato & William Wouters
- François Chasans – Quinta da Vacariça
- Mário Sérgio Nuno – Quinta das Bágeiras
- Paulo Sousa – Sidónio de Sousa Wines
- Luís Patrão e Eduarda Dias – Vadio Wines
I’m looking forward to catching up with Baga Friends this week. If you would like to taste wines from five of the Baga Friends next month, Luis Pato, Niepoort, Filipa Pato & William Wouters, Quinta das Bágeiras and Vadio will be at FESTA, a deep dive festival of Portuguese wine and food culture by Bar Douro at Tobacco Dock on 24th & 25th June.
You can find out more about it/book tickets here, including for a ‘Red Carpet’ Esoteric Fortified Tasting at 1pm on Saturday 25th May featuring rare 2007 and 2017 fortified Bagas from Quinta das Bágeiras and Filipa Pato & William Wouters (full disclosure – I’m FESTA’s Wine Director).
Here are three Baga-tastic recommendations for International Baga Day, all of which will be shown by their makers at FESTA:
Luis Pato Vinha Pan 2017 (Bairrada DOC)
Vinha Pan was planted by Pato himself in 1980. In an unusually dry, hot year the 2017 is delicious already, with anise-edged red berry and currant fruits, fleshier plum and ripe but present fine tannins. Long and spicy, with cedar and liquorice to the finish. Broachable but will age well – just check out this post for my notes on an extensive vertical tasting with Pato (the 1996 Pan in magnum was a joy)! Luis’ flagship Quinta do Ribeirinho Baga Pé Franco 2015 – one of my Decanter 2021 Top 10 Portuguese Fine Wines of 2021 will be shown at FESTA’s ‘Red Carpet’ Fine & Rare tasting at 7pm on 24th June.
Quinta das Bágeiras Garrafeira 2017 (Bairrada DOC)
This terrific vintage of Bágeiras’ most classic Baga is brilliantly structured, ever so chalky, smoky and mineral with terrific concentration to the violet-edged al dente black and red cherry fruit. It is sourced from very old 90+-year-old vines. The grapes fermented with 100% whole bunches and, following manual punch downs, the wine finished fermenting in old wooden toneis (big barrels), where it aged for 18 months. I loved the parry of fruit-sluiced tannin and acidity. It makes for arresting tension and length on the palate. Takes your breath away this one. 13.5%
Vadio Grande Tinto 2015 (Bairrada DOC)
This was the first of a run of very good to outstanding vintages for Baga, 2015 being in the outstanding category. Vadio’s top wine is only released in top years and with bottle age. Sourced from just one vineyard (an aged one), the aim of Grande is “to show the best expression of a vineyard in one year,” said Patrão when I visited Vadio in 2017. Consistent with 2012 (a more accessible vintage), the 2015 shows off the vineyard character well with a savoury ruffle of pine needle and incipient mushroom to its red fruit. Round and ripe, concentrated, through the mid-palate, a vein of fresh acidity – lovely freshness from tip to toe – buoys the fruit going through. Long with lovely purity and intensity of fruit at the core.