Luis Pato "Barrosa" Baga Vinha Velha 2016
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Direct Press Selection | May 2022
Does Baga have the potential for greatness that Nebbiolo is known for? Luís Pato certainly thinks so, and has fought hard for this unique grape that is planted in the rural Bairrada region, located mid-coast between Lisbon and Porto. Baga certainly has the tannin and the astringency needed for extended aging, though in some cases this is so pronounced as to make it as angry as an old man returning soup at a deli. As an admitted contrarian, Baga has always appealed to me with it’s ornery attitude and meaty, iron funk.
If there was a convincing argument to support the belief that “we should all come to our senses and recognize Baga as one of the world's great grape varieties,” as Pato’s importer Lewis Kopman puts it, the 2016 Vinha Barrosa may be it.
Made from vines over 100 years-old, head-trained and planted the ‘old way’ — unevenly spaced and mixed in with fruit trees in an outcropping of lime-rich reddish clay surrounded by pine and eucalyptus — it is indeed a tannic wine built for the long haul. 24 months in barrel and addtional time in bottle has integrated the tannins so they are not harsh, they prop up some beautiful, sumptuous black cherry fruit. Sage, iron, cranberry, and a touch of vanilla red tea are overlaid on the wine’s viscous, rich body.
Definitely decant this! Don’t be afraid to drink it now but it is a reductive wine that needs air — not unlike Nebbiolo. I would recommend trying one now and if you are as smitten by Baga as me and the rest of the converted, grab a few more to age even longer. Pato bottlings from the early 2000’s that I’ve recently tasted had plenty of life left in them. Baga will reward your patience and your sympathy for its difficult nature. For the moment it’s still possible to find library releases of old Baga that will blow your mind for a fraction of the price of old Nebbiolo, so that’s another perk of joining the cult of this cantankerous cultivar.