Baga Full Of Secrets

Luis Pato, Bairrada, Vinha Barrosa, 2015

Baga is the dominant red grape of Portugal's Bairrada region. Luis Pato is the self-proclaimed (?) Mister Baga, a title I agree he rightfully deserves. Barrosa is his first love and his premier vineyard, where his life's mission and passion started. His Bagas always show graphite and iron on the nose; also, a lithe body (a cross between Gamay and Mencia), which I understand was uncommon in old time Bagas and which took him years to master. In 2015, the palate is sweeter and juicier than what I remember of the 2011 at the same age, so maybe Baga was too tame this year? And yet, the acidity gives the wine a tangy lift and I think it deserves time in the fridge, although I suspect it will never never achieve the same balance of muscles and zest that I loved in the 2011. (Oct. 23, 2020)

Luis Pato, Bairrada, Vinha Formal, Parcel Candido, Cercial, 2018

This is a showcase of what Pato does with his whites. It's not a spectacular showcase, though - the acidity is not vibrant enough for that. The predominant white grape in the Vinha Formal vineyard is Bical, from which Pato makes a Vinha Formal Branco bottling. The Parcel Candido is a plot where only the Cercial grape is grown, which most likely the same Cercial grape grown in Madeira. Let me tell you what you get here. The nose is truly like no other. I always say the aromas are of minerals and herbs from an alien planet. If I were given to even more hyperbole than I am, I'd say that sniffing the wine tells you all you need to know about Bairrada. Sadly, the relatively low acidity gives a lot of the game away, but it is, despite that, a very savory, wry wine. It may not live up to the glory of previous vintages, but it certainly stimulates. (Oct. 24, 2020)

My biggest worry, both as a fan and as a consumer, is that the low acidity is some sort of sign that Pato is losing his touch. But the less expensive white, Vinhas Velhas, 2019, a blend of Bical and Cercial, set my worries to rest, with its excellent balance of fruit and acidity. The nose is less opulent and exotic, but it's a charmer nonetheless, yellow fruit with a touch of flint and spices, echoed on the palate, where the acidity I mentioned carries the flavors well. (Nov. 2, 2020)

Niepoort, Dão, Conciso, 2016

If Pato's Bagas are a hypothetical cross between Gamay and Mencia, this is actually an uncommon (for the  Dão) blend of Baga and Jaen, the local name for Mencia. Appropriately enough, it comes off to me as a Levantine Beaujolais Cru, so there you have the Gamay connection. Vivid and fresh, with a touch of graphite and clean funk, it is seductive and moreish, juicy and succulent, with an extremely prominent aromatic presence. More than that, it is a very merry wine. (Oct. 26, 2020)