Discover Bairrada and the icon grape Baga

It is impossible to talk about the history of the Baga grape without mentioning the history of its region of origin in Bairrada.

Bairrada

Bairrada is one of the largest wine regions in Portugal. This country ranks among the ten most significant wine producers on the planet, producing extremely high-quality red, white, sparkling, and rosé wines.

In 1991, right after the country joined the European Union, Bairrada was one of the first Portuguese regions to obtain DOC status (Denominação de Origem Controlada).

rota do vinho da bairrada signage - Bairrada Wine History

Bairrada Terroir

Geography, climate, and soil

The Mondego River bounds it to the South and the Vouga River to the North. East by the Atlantic Ocean and West by the Buçaco and Caramulo mountains, the region is composed of a low-altitude plateau. The soil is predominantly clay-limestone, but a few areas have sandy and alluvial soils.

The climate is Mediterranean, moderated by the Atlantic, and the region receives substantial maritime influence from the Atlantic Ocean. Winters are cool, long, and rainy, and summers are warm, softened by the presence of frequent winds in the regions near the sea. The area benefits from a wide temperature range when the grapes ripen, and the variation can reach a 20ºC difference between day and night.

Viticulture.

The vines used to make the wines must be at least four years grafted. Irrigation is allowed in the region under extreme conditions. For this, the producer needs prior authorization from the Comissão Vitivinícola da Bairrada (CVB) and recognized by the Vine and Wine Institute. The Bairrada DOC has fixed 55 hl for red wine and 70 hl for white, rosé, and sparkling wine. After this amount, the wine was bottled and labeled as Vinho de Mesa.

Production in Bairrada Region

Bairrada’s main grape, considered the region’s icon grape, is Baga, which corresponds to at least 50% of the grapes planted in the area, a red variety whose tannins are vibrant and present, guaranteeing its high wine longevity. As for the white ones, the one that stands out the most is Fernão Pires, named Maria Gomes, whose wines are aromatic and floral.

According to specialists, the essential reds for the region are Baga, Touriga Nacional, Castelão, and Aragonez. As for the white wines, the representatives with the most significant potential are Maria Gomes, Bical, Arinto, and Rabo de Ovelha.

In addition, the region authorizes the cultivation of foreign varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Pinot Noir, along with Portuguese varieties. All this is to increase the export of Portuguese wines to make them competitive in the market.

Finally, there is only one way to talk about Bairrada by mentioning the production of sparkling wines. It is the oldest and most important region in Portugal in elaborating this type of wine since sparkling wines have been produced there since 1890 by the classic method, which gives much more sophistication and refinement to the wines.

Bairrada Red Wines

Baga is the main red grape variety in Bairrada, representing about 75% of the red wine plantations. The late ripening variety does well in Bairrada’s terroirs, although autumn rains and winds can wreak havoc on the harvest. The small berries and thick skins of Baga produce an intense tannic wine. Red wines are also used in blends with Merlot, Cabernet, and Touriga Nacional grapes to give softness and depth to the wines.

Bairrada White Wines

The Fernão Pires and Bical grape varieties dominate Bairrada white wines. Bical is a very popular white wine grape in Bairrada and Dão. After approximately five years of planting, Bical wines usually have aromatic qualities similar to aged Riesling. Fernão Pires, also known as Maria Gomes, is the white grape mostly grown in Portugal, used more intensively in the South than in the North.

Bairrada Sparkling Wines

Bairrada was one of the first national regions to adopt and explore sparkling wines. Its cool and humid climate gives the grapes a high acidity and low alcohol content.

Sparkling wines from this region are easily used as appetizers or in the local cuisine. Bairrada is one of the most important regions in the country in terms of sparkling wine production. Bairrada’s sparkling wines can have the fragrance of Maria Gomes grapes, or they can be drier, using grape varieties such as Arinto, Bical, and Cercial, sometimes with some Chardonnay. Besides these, the “Blancs de noirs” also use the rapidly pressed Baga grape variety.

Main characteristics of Baga grapes

For those who will venture into tasting a label 100% produced with Baga grape, it is essential to know that there are better options than the variety for those starting in the world of wines because they are usually quite tannic and acidic.

Also known as Tinta da Bairrada, Tinta Fina, or Tinta Poeirinha, Baga is not an easy grape to grow, works very well in clayey soils, and requires good sun exposure.

The nickname Tinta da Bairrada comes from its origin: the grape variety is one of the primary grapes produced in the Bairrada region in Portugal. Almost 50% of the vineyards in Bairrada are Baga. The fruit develops best when planted in clay soils, with excellent exposure to the sun, characteristics present in the Portuguese region.

The labels are usually intense among the 100% red wines from this grape variety, with pronounced tannins, deep color, and concentrated aromas. Besides many of Portugal’s best reds, Baga also makes Blanc de Noir sparkling wines – white sparkling wines from red grapes, and there are also productions of sparkling red wines made with this grape.

Pairing with Baga

In general, the complexity of wines produced from the Baga grape, the pairing also calls for dishes with more robust flavors – for a combination by similarity.

Check out some dishes that go well with the Baga grape:

Pairing with red wines produced with Baga grapes: eggplant kibbeh, pepperoni pizza, provolone cheese, pasta with Bolognese sauce, cheese-stuffed polpetone, potato gratin, pork shank, mature cheeses, braised Argentine rump steak;

Pairing with sparkling wines produced with the grape Baga: codfish with potatoes and broccoli, ceviche, a platter of cold cuts, parma ham pizza, spicy Asian food, grilled fish, steak with fried cassava;

Pairing with rosé wines from the Baga grape: potato fry with tomato and camembert, noodles with seafood, salmon sashimi, cold cuts board, cheddar, and bacon fries.

Bairrada Wine History

Wine tourism and attractions

Thinking about the future, the region’s producers and the local government have managed to start a complete restructuring process. With the urban attractions of the essentially agricultural universe, developing the principles of growing local industry, and constantly improving services, the region is currently a great reason to get to know Portugal through wine.

In this sense, Bairrada offers exciting alternatives for the entertainment of its visitors. Inaugurated on September 27, 2003, The wine museum tells the story of wine production in the region. This wine route combines the best hotels, restaurants, wineries, and natural and historical attractions, constituting Bairrada as an important center for production and wine tourism in Portugal.

Also read: Top Reasons To Explore The Santorini Wine Region

Want to read more? Try these books!

Bairrada Portugal Wine Notes- Wine Tasting Journal - Record Keeping Book for Wine Lovers - 6x9 100 Pages Notebook Diary (Wine Log Book Series -... The wines of Portugal (The Classic Wine Library)

Categories: This Day in Wine History | Articles, Wine RegionsTags: , By Published On: February 19, 2023Last Updated: February 28, 2024

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