Filipa Pato: 10 years of experiments, time to go 100% Bairrada

Filipa Pato is cut from the same cloth as her father, Luis Pato, Bairrada’s leading winemaker.  She’s a restless winemaking soul, all to our benefit, or so I thought until she told me she’d no longer be making Silex!

The 2008 vintage was a stand out wine of my selection of 50 Great Portuguese Wines and the 2006 made the cut for Jamie Goode’s 50 Great.  It’s no exaggeration to say I was gutted that she’s no longer making this beautiful Dão blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro Preto, but Pato says, “after 10 years of experiments (ensaios), I dramatically changed my image…my focus is totally on Bairrada now.” 

Bairrada, whose vineyards she’s putting under the microscope, is her region of birth.  Like her father,  she’s clearly determined to keep it firmly on the map without sacrificing the best of tradition, notably, the Baga grape.  She and fellow “Baga Friends” are keen to put a halt to the grubbing up of old Baga vines and I can think of no more persuasive case than her maiden Nossa Calcario Red – as delicate and intense a Baga as I’ve tasted (see below).  And for contrast, she’s also reviving the region’s tradition for fortifieds with “Saga de Baga.”

Given that she also makes 3 sparkling wines, FP white and red and Nossa Calcario Bical, Pato will be moving out of the pocket-sized winery at her grandmother’s house (pictured during my visit last March).  She and her husband William have bought an old winery (pictured below) overlooking the aged vineyards of Ois do Bairro, from which her top flight Nossa wines hail.   Constructed almost a century ago, it’s built from the calcario stones from the surrounding vineyards and, she says, “looks so authentic and charming, it was like love on first sight, without any make-up!”

Here are my notes on her most recent releases – I’m looking forward to the follow on 2010 and 2011 Baga already – vintages which Pato pronounces “outstanding.”

Filipa Pato Nossa Calcario Branco 2010 (Bairrada, Ois do Bairro)

Made from 100% Bical from Ois do Bairro’s stony clay over extremely chalky subsoil, which Pato says accounts for the smoky quality.  A creamy nose, with discernable structure – a ripple of muscle beneath – doesn’t give too much away.  In the mouth, it’s textured and creamy yet not creamy, muscular yet light with subtle, scented white peach, close to kernel rather than sweet and ripe, with almonds and a hint of smoke.  A beautifully balanced, very complete yet unworked wine, which kept drawing me back to the glass (and bottle!)  Long, layered, textural and complex it’s outstanding.  12.5% abv.

Filipa Pato Nossa Calcario Tinto 2009 (Bairrada, Ois do Bairro)

Nossa red is made from very old field blend vineyeard (Pato reckons around 80% Baga, with other traditional local grapes, like Bastardo, Marvão, Piriquita, Maria Gomes, Sercial, Bical).  It lends a wonderfully complex perfume to this wine – violet top notes and spicier, earthier coltsfoot/pine hints leap out of the glass and follow through on a lissome palate, bright with raspberry and morello cherry fruit of lovely purity.  That wisp of smoke infuses a long, fine, bright finish, all levity and perfume.  Like the soils, the tannins are fine and chalky, but not without firmness, which bodes well for ageing.  Pato tells me “we make a soft extraction in the oak lagares inspired in romain times.”

For stockists, I’m told Bottle Apostle are a good bet.

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