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The wines of Quinta das Bágeiras, Bairrada, Portugal

I’m a fan of the Bairrada region in northern Portugal. It’s a difficult place to grow grapes, and it’s gone through some hard times. But when it gets it right, it makes some of Portugal’s most impressive, ageworthy red wines, based on the Baga grape. So difficult has it been for it to get it right, that in 2003 the rules were relaxed to allow a range of international varieties to be used here. But I’m full of admiration for the producers who have stuck with Baga, such as Quinta das Bágeiras.

Mŕrio Sérgio Alves Nuno (above) is the winemaker and owner of Bágeiras, which he set up in 1990. Vineyard area is 24 ha (large for the region), spilt between red and white varieties. These wines are serious, and remind me a bit of the great Italian reds from Sangiovese and Nebbiolo with their structure and acidity.

‘I make the wine in a traditional way’, says Mŕrio Sérgio. ‘Many people in the world now make wines the same way. I try to make a good wine with Baga every year.’ He uses whole bunches in the lagar, and then the wine goes into large oak vats of 2500 litres and more.

I tried these wines on two separate occasions: once at a tasting put on for me when I visited the region in July 2008, and then at a big tasting in Lisbon in November 2008. My verdict? This is a serious producer of both white and red wines, as well as some impressive ‘espumantes’ (sparkling wines) which are all made in a Brut Natural (no dosage) style.

Quinta das Bágeiras Bruto Natural Rosé 2006
100% Baga.
Salmon pink colour. Fresh with nice grip. Acidic and quite lean with a refreshing character. 88/100 (11/08)

Quinta das Bágeiras Super Reserva 2005
Lovely bright herby, lemony style with good acidity and nice fizz. Lean and pure with good acidity. 90/100 (11/08)

Quinta das Bágeiras Bruto Natural 2001
Subtly toasty, explosively super-fresh style. Gently herby palate with real purity and freshness, as well as high acidity. Lean, tight, pure and fresh. 91/100 (11/08)

Quinta das Bágeiras Branco Garrafeira 2005
Mario Gomes and Bical grape varieties aged in old oak vats. Quite deep coloured. Powerful nose is herby and lemony with a hint of tangerine peel. Dense and traditional. The palate is distinctive with herby citrussy notes as well as some nutty richness. Massive flavour here: a concentrated, intense wine. 91/100 (07/08)

Quinta das Bágeiras Branco Garrafeira 2006
Seriously fresh and mineralic with some structure. Tight, fresh nose has some waxy, herby notes. Nicely fresh on the palate with good acidity and purity. Minerally, tight and citrussy. 90/100 (11/08)

Quinta das Bágeiras Tinto 2005
Nice bright, fresh cherryish fruit with some subtle earthiness. Nice density: a supple, digestible wine that’s really attractive. 89/100 (11/08)

Quinta das Bágeiras Reserva 2005
60% Baga, 40% Touriga Nacional.
Not destemmed; fermented in lagares and then spends 16 months in an oak vat. Fresh, spicy, savoury nose with dark fruit aromatics. The palate is spicy and dense with structured dark fruits and good acidity. Dense and full with lovely solid, traditional, fresh character. 90/100 (07/08)

Quinta das Bágeiras Reserva 2005
60% Baga, 40% Touriga Nacional. Not destemmed; fermented in lagares and then spends 16 months in an oak vat. Savoury, spicy nose is slightly earthy with some bright cherry fruit. There’s lovely ripe, almost lush cherry fruit on the palate which meshes well with the earthy, spicy structure. A lovely forward yet traditionally styled wine. 92/100 (11/08)

Quinta das Bágeiras Garrafeira Tinto 2003
A special old vineyard that is over 100 years old. Smooth, complex, brooding red and black fruits nose with spiciness and earthy, undergrowth notes, as well as some balsamic character. The palate is ripe and smooth with lovely complex earthiness. There’s firm structure, but it is really refined and quite elegant.
93/100 (07/08)

Quinta das Bágeiras Garrafeira Tinto 2005
Lovely intense dark cherry and plum nose. Rich, intense and with a fresh spicy character. The palate is dense and tight with a powerful but refined spicy earthy structure. There’s lovely intense fruit here, too. Powerful, concentrated and intense with lovely firmness and potential for future development. 94/100 (11/08)

Wines tasted 07/08 and 11/08  
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