LAND OF BAGA AND BUBBLES
In the western part of the Beiras, between the mountainous Dão region and the surf-washed Atlantic beaches, Bairrada has a mild, maritime climate with abundant rainfall. In between the warmth of the south and the sun-drenched terraces of Douro, Bairrada has a very unique style and character amongst the beauties of portuguese wines.
In recent years, it became a focus point and a very important area for sparkling wines. Base wines for sparkling wines need the kind of high acidity that the cool Bairrada climate delivers. Sparkling Bairrada wines may have the fragrance of the Maria Gomes grapes (also known as Fernão Pires), or they may be more steely, based perhaps on Arinto, Bical and Cercial, sometimes with some Chardonnay. There are also ‘blancs de noirs’ based on quickly-pressed Baga, a portuguese varietal closely linked to this specific region.
Baga is the traditional local red grape. It makes tannic wines that can have high acidity if under-ripe, but if ripened and handled well the Baga can give rich, dense fruity reds that age into elegant wines of great complexity.
Baga is Bairrada’s key red grape variety, making up around 75 percent of red-wine plantings. The late-ripening variety does well in the terroir here, although rain and winds in autumn from the nearby Atlantic coast can play havoc at harvest. This may explain why since 2003, a large number of non-local varietals has been used in D.O.C Bairrada wines – national grapes such as Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro as well as other international varietals likes; Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot are growing in use.
The Bairrada region is bordered by the Vouga River to the north, the Mondego River to the south, the Caramulo-Bussaco Mountains in the east and Atlantic Ocean in the west. The region is quite rich in water resources thanks to a number of small rivers that flow across.
The total surface area of this region extends over 108,000 hectares, of which approximately 12,000 hectares are planted with grapes for wine in about 10,000 vineyards. The wine regions name derives from the Portuguese Bairrada – a term to describe clay or loam, which is dominant in the area and is enriched with lime. There are the two main types of soil in which vines grow – clay-limestone and sandy, each influencing the resulting style of wine.Viticulture has being practiced in Bairrada since the 10th century, when the region gained independence from the Moors. Located south of the major Port wine producing centre of Oporto / Porto, the fortunes of Bairrada greatly improved during the 17th century when Port producers, eager to supply the growing British market, would blend Bairrada wines with the product coming from the Douro.