Tag Archives: baga

Quinta das Bágeiras: As traditional as they come in Bairrada

I have recently been in Bairrada visiting some of the best producers. While I am working on a longer piece (and have indeed finished one for the Norwegian magazine Vinforum) I here give you another wine as our Wine of the Week. Last time I talked about the project of Dirk Niepoort, that together with Filipa Pato can be called the leading “modernist” producers, at least in the subtle, low-alcohol, low-extraction style. Compared to these, Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno can be dubbed “traditionalist”. But they are all “Baga Friends” (as the name of their group suggests), and I would say that the similarities overshadow the differences.

Quinta das Bágeiras produces wine from own vineyards at Fogueira, in northern Bairrada. Fogueira means something like bonfire in Portuguese, and you may have seen the flame on the labels. Mário Sérgio leads the family firm, and his son Frederico is now under education in enology. Winemaker Rui Alves (a defender of traditional expertise) and other good helpers have been with him for many years.

2017-08-31 16.24.52 - Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno og sønnen Frederico Nuno Mário Sérgio and Frederico Nuno

The vineyards are treated in a natural way, without spraying and fertilizing, no yeasts are added, there is whole-bunch fermentation, foot-trodding in lagares of cement, and ageing on big wooden vats.

Mário Sérgio has always convinced us with the qualities of his colheitas, reservas and garrafeiras, both red and white. Quite recently he has expanded his portfolio with wines called Pai Abel (a hommage to his father, wines from a single vineyard on clay and limestone by Ancas, close to Fogueira) and Avô Fausto, a nod to his grandfather, who established the first vineyards).

I was tempted to chose his Super Reserva Rosé 2011, a super rosé with 12 months skin-contact and five years on the lees, a complex, tasty, herby sparkler. But the red bagas are the most prominent wines throughout the quinta’s history, and we end up with the Garrafeira 2005. It is approaching its peak (where these wines can stay for a long time).

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Quinta das Bágeiras Garrafeira 2005

Dark, deep, showing beginning development. Super berry fruit (cherry, morello), but also some coffee and earthy, darker aromas. And here are enough tannins and acidity for a long life. Power and finesse!

Price: Medium

 

Baga in a different direction

I am in Baga country, Bairrada, with a bunch of dedicated wine people.

There are various styles from that grape, reds, rosés, sparkling, and big variations between each of them. I believe that baga and Bairrada could have been marginalized, almost forgotten, had it not been for the revitalization of the classical styles a couple of decades ago – and now the “Baga Friends” group, seven producers with a real passion for that grape (some of them also the main players behind the revitalization I talked about). Baga is difficult to grow, the climate in Bairrada is challenging, but when all is under control the wines can have a great personality, rich in tannin, acidity, and with a unique aromatic profile – something unique in the wine world.

20170902_154703 Dirk Niepoort talking to journalists in the cellar

Today we visited Quinta de Baixo, in Cantanhede. I visited this southern Bairrada winery some ten years ago, just after the former owner had raised the yellow adega building. In 2012 Dirk van der Niepoort acquired it, and is now taking it in a different direction.

-Bairrada does not need to rely on power, says Dirk Niepoort, -I believe the baga wines from limestone soils can have light colour, low alcohol, good acidity, chalkiness and elegance. So from the beginning we decided to work with earlier picking, no extraction and with a lot of whole bunch pressing. And he continues: -With baga it’s important not to play too much with oak (and that’s good music in my ears…).

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Baga from a more than 100 years old vineyard just above sea level at Cantanhede

Poeirinho refers to the former designation of the baga variety and is a tribute to the Bairrada wines of the past. Those were were light in colour and low in alcohol, but still with ageing potential.

Poeirinho 2015 was vinified in lagares for 4 weeks, and it stayed in the same large, used vat through alcohol- and malo-lactic fermentation and 20 months ageing, before it was bottled unfiltered.

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Poeirinho 2015 (Quinta de Baixo)

Light red with violet hints. Expressive aroma of cherry, with a touch of spice and some chalky elements. It’s a pure and juicy wine with elegant tannins and a refreshing acidity, concentrated yet pleasant to drink now, with a low 12% alcohol (the previous one had only 11).

Price: Medium

Food: Red meats, roasted lamb, suckling pig, sausages, ham, cheese, bacalhau, salads…

 

Stavanger fair III: Portugal

Portugal came somehow in the shadow of the many Spanish contributions of the fair. However there were some old favourites. Alvaro Castro continues to do an excellent job near the Serra da Estrela national park. Two of my favourites are his lovely, fresh young Saes Dão 2015 from a traditional Dão blend -dark berries, mountain vegetation, a touch of spices-, and its more ambitious touriga-based brother Quinta de Saes Reserva 2012.

From Douro I had the pleasure to retaste one of Niepoort‘s bestsellers, a typical Douro blend that changes its name according to market. If I remember right it started in Germany as Fabelhaft, and in Norway it’s translated into Fabelaktig, now in the 2015 vintage. This one too is a fruity, almost silky red, with aromas of red berries, some spice and just a slightly sweet oak-tone.

Luís Seabra was represented by Xisto Ilimitado 2014. His project is characterized by a wish to express the terroir, low-intervention vinification, ageing in big, used vats. His favours were hired by Dirk Niepoort a.o., but he finally choose to go solo and made good wines from his first vintage in 2013. This wine was dark, with cool fruitiness, a little spicy, surprisingly light, but with just enough structure to bind it nicely together. As the name suggests the wine has a mineral touch, and the acidity gives it a long and lingering farewell.

IMG_0990 Yes, it takes a little bit of concentration

Luís Pato was represented by no less than twelve wines. Pato lives and works in Óis do Bairro in the Bairrada region, but for political reasons he chose to declassify his production some years ago. The wines are obviously at a high level, and among the many wines I appreciated this particular evening were two of his whites, the Maria Gomes Branco 2014, golden, rich, glycerine-full and a hint of citrus and tropical fruits, and the Vinhas Velhas Branco 2014 (50% bical, the rest sercial and sercialinho), more concentrated, slender, with notes of green apples, yellow plums and a stony minerality. Among the reds I will limit myself to mention three wines, the Baga Natural 2012, a relatively new wine in the portfolio, a no-sulphur-added, expressive, fruity and a little earthy wine in the lower end of the price-scale. Another budget wine is the Colheita Seleccionada 2013 (baga with touriga nacional), unoaked, cherry red, with red fruits and herbs. Then there was the Vinhas Velhas 2011, nowadays more on the fruity side and less woody than it used to be, although it has seen big French barrels for a year. I have recently tasted ’90 and ’95 versions of the wine, both still drinking very nicely. This wine is for considerably shorter shelf-life. All right, I’ll give you one more, the always lovely Vinha Pan, now in the 2013 vintage. This chalky clay-vineyard is harvested twice, first for rosé and sparkling wines, then one and a half months later to give this red wine, relatively dark, with red fruit aromas, decadent underwood, mushrooms, and some notes in the balsamic/lickorice direction. Very “baga”, very good.

Conventially made ports was not the focus of my visit, but I couldn’t avoid noticing that Symington was present.

2017-01-21 13.01.26 In front of the Symington port table

 

IMG_3987 Aftertaste: Yes, another successful fair has come to an end

Baga & friends from Quinta da Serradinha

I first met António Marques da Cruz and tasted his wines a few years ago, in a restaurant owned by the family of fellow winemaker Pedro Marques in Lisboa. Next occation was a wine fair down by the river Tejo. You can read about it here. Since then I have occationally come across the wines in bars, mostly in Portugal (such as the Café Tati), that specialize in quality wines from artisan growers.

2014-07-10-23-16-41 Meeting António and tasting his wines in Lisboa

It was quite surprising to find a baga from just outside Leiria. But looking at it, the humid climate near the coast and the limestone-clay soils (also with chalk content) are not very different from what you can find many places in Bairrada, where the grape is at it most emblematic. The Marques family was pioneers in organic viticulture and low-intervention winemaking in the area.

The next surprise was that the wine was that old. I came across it this year too, in London, and it had really stood the test of time. Baga is also used in younger blends, giving both fresh and meaty, blueberry and blackberry scented wines.

The Baga 1999 comes from a vineyard planted back in 1957. It has 75% baga, the rest being a field blend of castelão, trincadeira and alicante bouschet. Everything was hand-harvested, the maceration was carried out in 20 days. The wine was aged in big 3000L barrels, and the wine was bottled without filtration. Alcoholwise it clocks in at just 12%. I think at a time the wine was labelled Estremadura (the name of the wine region now known as Lisboa).

quinta-da-serradinha-tinto_1999

Quinta da Serradinha 1999 (António Marques da Cruz)

Deep cherry red. It still retains some freshness, with blueberry intact, but with aged aromas such as nuts, dried fruits and a touch of raisins. Concentrated, still pretty lively in the mouth, with some acidity. But everything is just so well integrated.

Price: Medium

Food: Many kinds of meat, hard cheeses, lovely on its own

Pato’s Baga Natural

I have visited Luís Pato several times, and tasted through his range over and over again. His wines are consistently good, the ambitious reds are the most famous, but don’t forget the whites. Pato never rests. Lately he has been moving towards organic agriculture, in a -organically speaking- difficult coastal landscape.

Here is a wine that seeks to demonstrate the baga grape’s antioxidant and stabilizing capacity, so as to be able to avoid the addition of sulphur.

Honestly I am not quite sure if the vineyards for this wine are organically grown, but I will ask the producer and update you about that. But the elaboration is undoubtedly done like a natural wine, there is no SO2 added, and the antioxidant capacity of the baga grape itself does the job. The climate can be said to be problematic, yes, but one can also say that it’s suitable for making wine without addition of acid, like is done in many hot regions, and without addition of sugar, done in many colder regions.

 

Baga Natural 2012 (Luís Pato)

Dark colour with a blueish hue. Very nice fruitiness on the cooler side, hints of blueberry, wild berries, and aromatic herbs. Quite slender in the mouth, and the baga grape gives it some dryness in texture.

Price: Low

Food: Suckling-pig (locally called ‘leitão’), other light meat, I think not too powerful game too, Caesar salad and similar…

Portuguese discoveries

I was invited by winemaker Pedro Marques to taste his wines, and also some from his friend António Marques da Cruz, at restaurant Areeiro 3 in Lisboa. OK, this was a while ago, but this blog is new, and I want to include some events from the last months of 2014. Areeiro 3 is managed by Pedro’s brother and takes its name from the street adress, and you see it once coming up from the underground of metro station Areeiro. Both wineries, Vale da Capucha and Quinta da Serradinha respectively, is located in the north of the Lisboa region, in Carvalhal (Torres Vedras) and in the Leiria area. We tasted some really nice wines from Portuguese white grapes like arinto, alvarinho, antão vaz, fernão pires (and some French too, like viognier) and red touriga nacional, aragonês, castelão, and not to forget baga. Among the wines you should try once in Portugal are the white Capucha 2011 from alvarinho on limestone ground, a salty, mineral wine, still somewhat young and closed, and Serradinha Rosé 2013, red-orange coloured wine raised in 800 liter amphoras, with peach, rhubarb, strawberry, and some milky notes from malolactic fermentation. Another interesting wine was his red Quinta da Serradinha 1999, based on baga, and still full of life.

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I was also invited to the Vinho ao Vivo, a terroir focused fair showing predominantly organic wines. I didn’t know about it then, but it proved to be a really charming event to visit again. It’s organized by wine bar and restaurant Os Goliardos down by the Tejo river next to the Discovery monument near Belém, and it includes local artisan food and live jazz. Who could ask for more, really? There we met several old friends, all with new wines to discover, and some other nice people. André Gomes Pereira who runs Quinta do Montalto, in Ourém, was there with his well-made wines. I knew his reds and rosés, but this time he also brought a white wine from fernão pires, a really interesting golden/orange coloured sparkling wine from 2005, that had spent 8 years on lees, and a “medieval” mix of red and white wine. Vasco Croft of Aphros Wines was there with his marvellous red and white “green wines”. His Aphros Loureiro 2013 is a different interpretation of the grape of that name, with a deep aroma, still with a steely acidity, but wrapped in a full, fruity taste. And who says a vinho verde can’t age? Well, the Aphros Vinhão 2009 isn’t that old, but many would not believe that a five year old wine from that region should be so full of energy as this one.

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And who else was there, if not the one and only Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno of Quinta das Bágeiras! This time equipped with his new Pai Abel entry level wine, together with the delicious reservas and garrafeiras, premium examples of the traditional style baga from outside Sangalhos, Bairrada. The oldest one this time was a Garrafeira 1990, a sublime pure baga wine, with red fruit aromas, the usual peppery notes, hints of smoke and a bit of raisin. He also brought an outstanding white Garrafeira 2012. These are all wines made in the deepest respect and understanding for their tradition. One can hardly claim they are modern, but they surely are complete.

2014-07-11 22.57.29 Hey: Mário Sérgio is here!

But he was not the only one from Bairrada. Campolargo was there, I have heard, though I didn’t see him (so little time…). Up and coming organic producer Vadio I saw. They brought some really nice wines, also based on the baga grape, but with a bit more modern touch. They use “wild” yeasts to start the fermentation, but some cultivated yeasts later in the process, some French oak (never exaggerated), resulting in robust, but not aggressive, wines. The Grande Vadio 2011 was a wine for long ageing, a lot of tannins and super acidity, and a very supple fruit to go with it. They also brought superb citric, flowery whites from old vine cerceal, along with arinto (and also a bical version). Ataíde Semedo, known for Quinta da Dôna, was there. He had now brought a pure baga, and a 50/50 baga/touriga. Tired of oak, he sold all his barrels some years ago, so these wines are very pure, some maybe a tough too much “worked”. I particularly liked his Colheita 2013, a fine baga on the light and elegant side.

Quinta da Pellada of Dão was represented, so was Infantado (Douro), a couple of producers from Colares and many more. I tasted some wonderful whites from Muxagat (Douro), such as a 90% rabigato, and a barrel-fermented 100% rabigato called Os Xistos Altos 2011. I never made it to the fortified wines like Barbeito of Madeira (sorry, Ricardo, next time!).

There were also visits from abroad. Juan González of As Furnias had travelled over the border from Rías Baixas’ subzone Condado do Tea with his interesting low-sulphured, low-barriqued natural wines from several local grapes.

Prominent guests from Italy, such as piemontese Luca Roagna and Giuseppe Rinaldi, were also there. I didn’t see them, but their wines surely were present. So were the wines from French domaines Gonon (Rhône) and Maréchal (Burgundy).

Tune in next Friday, when our Wine of the Week will be one that we tasted during this fair.

2014-07-11 23.12.58-1 The sun was down, the moon was up, the discoveries lay behind us, time to find a hotel bed… And the band played on!