Bairrada, perhaps Portugal’s best terroir? In seven wines

Bairrada is a wine region in northern Portugal that is attracting a lot of attention at the moment. It has a moderate climate, influenced by the Atlantic to the west, and some interesting soils, including quite a bit of limestone, although there are also some sandy terroirs. And it also has the intriguing Baga as its lead red grape variety. Baga on clay/limestone soils can be particularly interesting. But there’s more to Bairrada than this: it’s also a region capable of making great white wines, and it’s the Portugal’s leading source of traditional-method sparkling. Here’s a quick tour of the region in seven wines.


Aplauso Vinho Espumante Bruto NV Bairrada, Portugal
This is a blend of Baga, Touriga Nacional and Pinot Noir, and according to the producer website spends 15 months on lees – but I think this wine is a bit older and has spent a lot longer on lees from its colour and complexity, or perhaps has spent a long time on cork after disgorgement. It’s a rich, beautifully layered wine with nuts, honey, toast and broad white peach and citrus fruit. The palate is mellow and harmonious with lovely depth of fruit. This is a rich style of sparkling wine that would be perfect with suckling pig. 91/100 (£15 Amathus)

Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Branco 2020 Bairrada, Portugal
12.5% alcohol. This is from old vine Bical, Cercial and Sercialinho, grown in a mix of sandy and chalky soils (Bical). Fermented and matured in stainless steel. It has a wonderfully focused aromatic nose of lime, quince and mandarin, with a chalky edge. The palate is linear and mineral with taut acidity under the citrus fruit, with a touch of marzipan and spice. This is a beautiful wine, with real precision, and potential for development, but it’s so delicious and vital now it’s hard to resist. Great value, too. 94/100 (£16.25 Yorkshire Vintners; 2019 vintage is £16.49 at Butlers Wine Cellar and £13.99 at Roberts & Speight)

Vadio Branco 2020 Bairrada, Portugal
12.5% alcohol. Bical and Cercial grape varieties, planted in a mix of sandy and chalky soils. Wonderfully fresh and aromatic with notes of wax, herbs and fennel as well as mandarin and lime fruit, with a touch of orange peel. The palate has wonderfully fresh acidity, and linear, taut pear, lime and citrus peel fruitiness. There’s such purity and concentration here, with a taut acid line as well as fruit brightness, and just a touch of salinity. This is such a lovely wine. 94/100 (the 2019 was available from the Wine Society at £13.95 until recently)

Niepoort Nat Cool Drink Me 2020 Bairrada, Portugal
12.5% alcohol
£17.99 Fareham Wine Cellar, Buon Vino
This is one of the Nat Cool series of wines made by Dirk Niepoort and a range of friends, packaged in distinctive litre bottles, and made authentically, although there aren’t any rules – they are supposed to be relatively inexpensive wines with high drinkability and little intervention. This Baga fits the bill, fermented and aged in stainless steel, with grapes from calcareous clay soils. It’s supple and fresh with juicy cherry, wild strawberry and plum fruit, supported by good acidity. Low in extraction, it has some crunchy tannins balancing the slightly tart fruit, and it just invites another sip. It’s a gastronomic wine, it has fruit, it has freshness and it has structure, and it shows off the elegance that Baga is capable of without sacrificing its personality. 92/100

Marquês de Marialva Colheita Seleccionada 2018 Bairrada, Portugal
13% alcohol. Adega de Cantanhede is a cooperative winery, and this is a blend of 50% Baga with 30% Aragonez and 20% Touriga Nacional. It’s aged for 6 months in used French oak. Deeply coloured, this has some spicy cinnamon and vanilla hints sitting under sweet, quite chocolatey raspberry and cherry fruit. There’s a real dusty cocoa hint here, alongside the pure focused fruit. This is the well-mannered, crowd-pleasing side of Bairrada. The climate and soils deliver fresh fruit; the modern winemaking some polish and easy appeal. 86/100 (£10.99 Laithwaites, £9.99 mix 12 price)

Aliança Bairrada Reserva 2018 Portugal
13% alcohol. This is a blend of 70% Baga, with 20% Tinta Roriz and 10% Touriga Nacional. Partially destemmed. This is fresh, supple and very drinkable, with an enticing aroma of fresh, slightly sappy black cherry and blackberry fruit, leading to a supple, open palate with a stony, savoury, mineral undercurrent and balanced black fruits, finishing juicy and complete. It’s all about drinkability. The tannins are well managed, there’s good acidity, and no noticeable oak. Captured and tames Baga well at a brilliant price. 89/100 (£6.99 ND John, UK agent is Boutinot, this won a Bronze medal at the International Wine Challenge)

Arco d’Aguieira by Aveleda 2016 Bairrada, Portugal
13% alcohol. This is a blend of 95% Touriga Nacional, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Tinta Roriz. It’s a distinctive, concentrated red with freshness to the black cherry and blackberry fruit as well as some notes of earth, dried herbs and autumn leaves. There’s a mellow savouriness here, with a bit of development, and overall there’s a sense of freshness coupled with harmony. Classic fine wine lines, drinking very well now. It’s unusual to see Barriada interpreted through the lens of Touriga Nacional, but it works well. Lovely autumnal aromatics here. 90/100

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