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Quinta das Bágeiras: Baga four, including new Avô Fausto Tinto

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Last month I wrote up Niepoort Poeirinho 2012, so-called because Poeirinho is the old name of Baga and this new release represents Niepoort’s tribute to the great Bairrada wines from the past.  Though very different, Quinta das Bágeiras’ new cuvée, Avô Fausto (meaning grandfather Fausto), sets out to do the same.

Says winemaker Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno of his grandfather, “he was the most responsible for the winery direction of this agriculture family and myself.  He liked a lighter wine –less alcohol, moderate tannins, elegant and fresh as he liked to drink not just a glass…….so, in his honor I blended old and young vines (15 years) from different terroir to achieve what I know would be more to his liking.” I review it below, together with this leading Bairrada estate’s latest Baga releases.

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Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno out in the field

The grapes for all four reds were sourced from chalky clay soils on which Baga flourishes. Each was fermented and aged old school style with 100% stems in open concrete vats.

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Open concrete vats for pigeage by hand or foot

They complete elevage in old toneis (big wooden vats, pictured).

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Wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined and I only wish we saw more of them in the UK. If you fancy tasting the wines with Mário Sérgio he will be at Robert Parker’s Matter of Taste event in London next month together with other members of Baga Friends.

Quinta das Bágeiras Avô Fausto Tinto 2010 (Bairrada)

Towering strength

Towering strength

A sumptuous, very inky nose and palate with floral undertones and a curl of woodsmoke to the lifted finish. In the mouth it shows great juicy intensity and depth of plum, mulberry and blackberry fruit with just a hint of mushroom, truffle and forest floor.  It may be lighter than Pai Abel and the Garrafeira but, where Poeirinho evokes Pinot Noir, Avô Fausto remains very true to the powerfully structured house style, putting me in mind of Nebbiolo.  It’s darker fruited, with a firmer (if fine) cool iron filings’ powdery tannin structure. An undercurrent of clean, fresh, mineral acidity enhances length and line.  Yes, more broachable than Paid Abel and the Garrafeira, but with no shortage of structure or brooding complexity to age well into the long term too.  In Portugal it retails for a little under 30€ at Garrafeira Nacional/sold out at Quinta das Bágeiras cellar door.  13.5%

Quinta das Bágeiras Reserva 2011 (Bairrada)

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With 40% Touriga Nacional, this very approachable Baga blend sings with violets on the nose.  Though the Touriga also makes for a smooth, relatively round, fleshy attack, it tapers going through as the Baga takes the baton and runs with it, bringing firm chalky acid and tannin support to this wine’s juicy pomegranate, red cherry and sweet plum fruit.  Both varieties lend signature notes to a firmish lingering finish – the Touriga more exotic bergamot/orange peel, the Baga cooler pine needle nuances and incipient mushroom and earth.   On day two, I detect a sweet/savoury/spicy tang of membrillo (quince cheese) which I not infrequently pick up in mature Baga.  An awful lot of wine for 8.5€ at Garrafeira Nacional (2010 vintage)/ 8.4€ at Quinta das Bágeiras cellar door. 13%

Quinta das Bágeiras Pai Abel Tinto 2009 (Bairrada)

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Pai (meaning father) Abel is a reference to Mário Sérgio’s father whom you can expect to find hard at work in the vineyards, his domaine.  This, the first vintage of the red, was successfully launched en primeur last summer; with just 2000 bottles, it sells for substantially more than the other cuvees – €65 at Garrafeira Néctar das Avenidas and is sold out at Quinta das Bágeiras cellar door.  Like the Reserva, it is a blend of Baga (80%) and Touriga National (20%), this one from a single vineyard (pictured) planted by Mário Sérgio and his father 15 years ago to a varietal mix of vines (like old field blend  vineyards). I well recall the steepness of the site (it was slippy) which, together with green harvesting (each vine only produces around three bunches) accounts for its mind-blowing concentration.  A concentration which I did not expect given its deep burgundy hue and expressive gamy, earthy, mushroom nose.

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These notes follow through on the attack, together with tight, darkly brooding and intense blackcurrant and pithy, juicy pomegranate fruit.  Built for the long haul, a web of tannins steals up on you and, despite this wine’s lively current of salty, mineral acidity, foreshortens the palate.  Huge potential lurks beneath Pai Abel’s fine but impenetrable mesh of chain mail tannins and its formidably concentrated ‘fruit’ which, by the finish, has homeopathic squid ink like intensity.  I wouldn’t broach this for another five years yet and expect it to last 30 years plus!  14.5%

Quinta das Bágeiras Garrafeira 2009 (Bairrada)

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This 100% Baga has terrific concentration with nervosity and expression.   A highly strung cedar-scented nose – firm, precise, very fresh – foreshadows the palate. In the mouth a tightly coiled core of concentrated, well-defined fresh blackcurrant is surrounded by pine needle, mushroom, truffle and inky floral strata.  Very fine-grained ripe but present tannins and ultra-persistent mineral-sluiced acidity fuel a long, long finish whose arching, ethereal incense spices build and resonate, making a cathedral of your mouth.  Extraordinary and, unless my eyes deceive me (or this listing refers to the white Garrafeira) extraodinarily good value at Estado D’Alma Wine Shop  at €19.38/19.75€ at Quinta das Bágeiras cellar door.  14.5%

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