August Wines of the Month: Filipa Pato FP Branco 2012 & Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Baiju 2011

I highly recommend popping this cork!

I highly recommend popping this cork!

Portugal’s Bairrada region has preoccupied me this year.

Literally (time-wise), because I spent a wet but fruitful week there in March researching articles for The World of Fine Wine (published in the current, 40th issue) and Decanter (to be published in the November issue).

Also in terms of head-space. This thought-provoking region produces some of Portugal’s best wines, indeed some of the most distinctive and distinguished wines I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste. And some of the worst.

It seems to be a prerogative of regions whose climate and varietal mix challenge all but the most assiduous and creative of producers (Bordeaux, Burgundy and Barolo are other examples). So let me introduce you to a “new” player on the scene, Niepoort, whose exquisite first finished vinous article I caught up with last month (having tasted barrel samples in March). And let me remind you of a favourite young gun’s white, whose current release offers among the best bang for buck on the high street.

Filipa Pato FP Branco 2012 (VR Beira Atlantico)

ahmed & ahearne 037

If you like Burgundy’s finer Macon-Villages this subtle, long, limpid blend of Bical and Arinto from similarly chalky clay soils is for you. Aged 50:50 in fine grained Allier oak and inox, its juicy white peach and lemony fruit washes delightfully and delicately over the palate. A touch of fennel adds lift. Beautiful balance; silky fruit.  12.5% abv £11.75 at Oddbins

Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Baiju 2011 (DOC Bairrada)

Dirk Niepoort has had a long love affair with Bairrada’s Baga grape which, in December last year, culminated in Niepoort’s purchase of Quinta de Baixo (more background to follow in a separate post). Telling me he “loved the elegance and ‘lightness’ of Dores Simoes” (the 1995 Garrafeira reviewed here), his reference points for this wine are “all the great old Bairradas” hardly any of which, he says, have more than 13.5 abv and lots of which have just over 12% abv. Suffice to say this intense yet elegant Baga weighs in at a bantam 12.5% and, like the Dores Simoes Garrafeira 95, its uncommonly sweet incense spice perfume soars heavenwards from the glass. While the nose seduces and, with its lift of spice and pine forest floor, the palate is long and lingering (well into day 3), there’s no attempt to oak- smooch its vibrant yet finely etched red currant and wild berry fruit. Which lays bare its fine flavour-anchoring web of suede-like fruit tannins and undertow of gravelly, mineral acidity. A terrific back to the future debut. Due to be released in the UK; anticipated RRP £25-27. Importers: Raymond Reynolds.

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