Portugal has an astounding number of native grapes, second only to Italy which often produces mono-varietal wines from its native grapes while Portugal generally plants a few kinds in the vineyard and blends them. Some Portuguese producers make mono-varietal Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Antão Vaz, Baga, Loureiro, and others, however, generally Portuguese wines are blends like two of the three we have below and these four from Alentejo.
But as we discussed here in “Discover Portugal’s Native Grapes in Esporao Organic Blends Paired Alentejo Pork and Clams,” some of these grapes are better known by their Spanish or international names while others are not known at all. This month, the Wine Pairing Weekend crew of writers investigates wines from grapes that are new to us (scroll down for links!), and since for Sue and I at this point those wines are rare and few and far in between, we decided to focus on Portugal, where we found a wine which is completely new to us– BAGA.
Like other wines from Portugal, Baga is actually really well know to wine lovers of a certain generation:
Baga is the main grape in that popular 1970s mainstay of the wine drinking world, Mateus! Now did I ever drink Mateus? I’m not sure, but I was certainly familiar with that perfume shaped bottle as it was often seen with a candle in it and covered in layers of colorful wax. And while you may never have had it, at one time it was THE MOST POPULAR WINE IN THE WORLD! Read more about Mateus here.
In addition to finding a wine made from Baga that isn’t sweet, effervescent, or rose, read on to discover what makes these three wines we feature of particular interest, and scroll down to find links to other participants in this month’s challenge. You’re also invited to our 8am Pacific twitter chat Sat. March 12 by searching for the hashtag #WInePW.
- 2020 Casa Relvas Herdade de Sao Miguel Colheita Seleccionada Rose, Alentejo
- 2020 Niepoort Drink Me “Nat Cool” Bairrada DOC (organic, natural)
- 2016 Wine & Soul Pintas Character, Douro (organic, natural)
What does it mean that the two red wines are organic and natural and why does that matter? Learn more here.
- Spanish cheeses: Iberico, Manchego, Aged Manchego
- Spanish crackers with thyme and rosemary
- Olives and almonds
- Cumin and Paprika Papas Fritas
- Trader Joe’s Peri Peri Sauce Chicken
- Kale with prosciutto
Peri Peri Sauce is a famous sauce used in many Portuguese dishes, and which draws from ingredients, particularly African chiles, sourced by the Portuguese while they were exploring and colonizing the coast of Africa. When I found it for sale at Trader Joe’s, I grabbed it!
2020 Casa Relvas Herdade de Sao Miguel Colheita Seleccionada Rose
- Vino Regional Alentejano
- Vinho Rose
- ABV – 12.5%
- Grapes – Touriga Nacional, Aragonez & Syrah
- sample for my review
So why include this rose? Syrah certainly is familiar to most wine drinkers, but as a rose? And what about Touriga Nacional? This grape is much better known as the primary grape in Port; read on for a wine that features several of the grapes usually made into port.
And what about Aragonez? Also known as Tinta Roriz, this grape is better known throughout the world as TEMPRANILLO.
So while this blend may seem exotic, you have probably enjoyed these grapes many times in other guises.
Color: Very pale, ballerina pink, very pretty, very clear, on the paler side of roses
Aroma: I was really struck when I first opened it that it was so expressive. Lots of fruit and florals, vibrant and fresh. Sue found licorice, black licorice and red licorice, raspberry fruit,
Palate: Very refreshing on the palate the licorice on the nose became fresh fennel for Sue. I found raspberry fruit. Nice clean finish, pleasant and light. Definitely and easy summer sipper. It does not have to have food to be enjoyed.
Pairing: Great with Iberico, the cheese becomes nutty and more flavorful, and the wine does the same. Great with the oven roasted potatoes and the seasonings of cumin, coriander, and, paprika, also fantastic with the spicy peri peri sauce, bringing out fruit in the wine and taming the heat. Smokey flavors love rose and this wine is no exception with our grilled chicken. The kale with fried procuitto brings out sweetness in the wine.
2020 Drink Me Nat Cool Bairrada DOC
- ABV 12.5%
- SRP $22 for a 1 Liter bottle
- Grapes: Baga
- Importer: Martine’s Wines
- purchased at Point de Chene Ojai CA
When Wine Tasting Team USA member Lisa Stoll returned from competing in France with a stop in Portugal, she raved about Baga which was one of the wines in the competition and which she found more to taste in Portugal so when we learned about this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend challenge, I wanted to find a bottle. Ojai’s Pont du Chene is full of natural and organic gems made by small producers, and I found one by a woman winemaker, Filipa Pato. Unfortunately the 2019 Dinamico Baga Bairrada was out of stock!
Fortunately, owner Bob Huey helped me out by suggesting the 2020 Drink Me Nat Cool Baga, and this winemaker was one that Sue had tasted before and was very enthusiastic about so she was thrilled we’d be trying another one of his wines.
We are now HUGE fans of Baga, so I look forward to trying Filipa Pato’s wine on another occasion, and while I was there I also bought a bottle of Vouvray for next week’s France’s Women in Wine.
Nat Cool “represents an innovative concept initiated by Niepoort, in which various producers came together to create light and easy-to-drink wines. In the Bairrada region we have produced the DrinkMe, the first Nat Cool, where we try to showcase a different and elegant side of the Baga grape variety. An incredibly light and accessible wine which just begs to be enjoyed.” How do they do this? In part the wine is made in stainless steel and unfiltered.
Color: Pale translucent, raspberry, pale pink rim, very pretty
Aroma: Smells so good! Fresh fruit, raspberry, pomegranate, blood orange, fresh flowers, sandalwood, cedar
Palate: Blood orange and raspberry, clean and tart, very easy to drink, low in tannins with nice bright acidity, this is an enjoy kind of wine, unpretentious and fun.
Pairing: Perfect with our Peri Peri chicken loving the spices and chawed grilled meat. The combination of char and spice brings out a fantastic depth of flavor. The raspberry fruit shines with the BBQ chicken. The oven roasted potato makes the wine so sweet and lovely. The fried kale was not so fantastic with the wine, but I think that it would be great with the kale chorizo soup that we have made in the past.
This wine was so fine with our menu, but was also fantastic with our meal. It is a wine that you can drink all night long
- We love the wine
- We love the label
- We love what they wrote on the label
- We just wanted to continue drinking this wine
- It tasted real, it tasted fresh, it tasted alive.
We continued to go back to this wine throughout the evening despite the other wonderful wines that were on the table.
2016 Wine & Soul Pintas Character Douro
- ABV 14%
- SRP $37
- Organic Grapes Pending Certification: Field Blend of 30 grapes, mostly indigenous
- Importer – Mondovino – Winebow Imports
- sample for my review
What makes this wine unusual? They are making this wine DRY and not into Port! Usually a field blend of these grapes would be made into a sweet Port but they are resurrecting them as dry wines — and they are succeeding!
Husband and wife team Sandra Tavares da Silva and Jorge Serôdio Borges own the property and serve as Winemakers at Wine and Soul located in the heart of Douro Valley. Natural farmers, they avoid chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides in their vineyards, use minimal Irrigation as needed by hand, prefer indigenous yeasts, and by now should have their pending organic certification.
Pintas Character is made from a field blend of 30 different varieties from the 45-year old Vale de Mendiz vineyard adjacent to the 85-year old Pintas vineyard. Some of the varieties are the indigenous Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (aka Aragonez aka Tempranillo), and Touriga Nacional. Vines are head trained which allows them to bush out, the grapes are foot trodden, and the wine is fermented in traditional granite lagares and aged for 18 months in 50% new and 50% second-passage French oak barriques.
Color: Very dark and dense, plum, blackberry with a maroon rim,
Aroma: Rich and heady, fruit, forest floor and violets on the nose for Sue, and I got some more pickle barrels, cherry and cherry phosphate, cherry soda.
Palate: Age has worked on the character of the wine, still grippy tannins and acidity, but there is a nice mellowness that comes with age. very nice finish, light fruit and wood, easy enough to drink with out food, but so much better with food on your palate. On day three the tannins were velvety and smooth.
Pairing: Fantastic with the aged Manchego, great wine to accompany some tapas. Great with Spanish olive oil and bread, with food there is a nice spice to the wine. Baking spices, The Peri, peri spices were perfect for the wine. Organic potatoes are sweet and nutty and with these spices are wonderful with this wine. The perfect balance of kick and complexity. Sue wanted to take the left overs and make a chicken salad sandwich. On a subsequent evening, we enjoyed this wine with a pork loin marinated in whisky and black pepper prepared in the Instant pot with mashed potatoes and spinach. Delicious pairing!
This wine really deserves rich complex flavors, and would work well with beef in various preparations.
STAY TUNED FOR A POST ON PORT! And check out these articles by the others in the Wine Pairing Weekend crew about grapes they found that were new to them this month:
- A Day in the Life on the Farm invites you to Join in the Fun as We Explore New Varietals and Share our Discoveries
- Culinary Adventures with Camilla is Exploring Pineau d’Aunis Rosé: Two Bottles and Chicken Two Ways
- Crushed Grape Chronicles shares Nosiola – a disappearing Northern Italian variety
- Our Good Life discovers Montepulciand d’Abruzzo and Italian Stuffed Peppers
- Avvinare is Exploring Ancient Grapes Prokupe and Vranac At Kosovo’s Stone Castle
- The Quirky Cork shares Discovering Asproudi, a Re-Emerging Greek Grape
- Wineivore:introduces us to Biodynamic Portugese Sparklers with Goan Cuisine
- ENOFYLZ Wine Blog serves up A Taste of Castelão; 2017 Casal Figueira “Tinto”
- Cooking Chat has a Pork Tenderloin Pasta Recipe with a New Italian Wine
- Vino Travels pours Barone di Serramarrocco Pignatello with Barbequed Ribs
- Gwendolyn Alley Wine Predator invites us to Discover Portugal’s Native Grapes with Peri Peri Chicken
- and we also have Discover Portugal’s Native Grapes in Esporao Organic Blends Paired with Alentejo Pork and Clams
I remember Mateus…and in fact enjoyed a few bottles. At the time I wasn’t into wine and would have had no idea the grape was Baga, so that’s a fun fact. It’s great that you tasted a Portuguese Rosé! I don’t think I’ve ever seen on stateside ( though as hot as it get in Portugal, I’m sure they drink plenty there…I’ll find out when we visit Portugal this summer!)