The Bairrada region is located in the north of Portugal in the Beira province. The region borders the Atlantic Ocean, accordingly the temperatures are reasonably moderate and there is a significant amount of rainfall throughout the region. The soil of the region is typically limestone with clay.
With regards to the wines, of particular note are the sparkling wines of the Bairrada region. The best sparkling wines are produced from grapes that are high in acidity and this is a quality that is manifest in the grapes of the Bairrada region owing to its cooler climate.
The most celebrated of the grapes of the Bairrada region is the Baga grape. This is a thick-skinned grape that makes for wines that are high in tannins. When used to best effect the Baga grape adds a deep colour and fantastic fruitiness to wines; it makes for elegant, complex wines that will age incredibly well. Over 80% of the red wines produced in the Bairrada region are made with the Baga grape so its importance should not be underestimated. Undoubtedly the grape is very difficult to work with, and this is perhaps reflected in some poorer quality wines produced in the region. The inherent acidity of the grape means that it must be picked late in the year when it is fully ripe to avoid bitterness. The late harvesting of the Baga grape can be a problem for the wine producers of the Bairrada region as the chances of rainfall become higher in the autumn. In order to soften the acidity of the Baga grape, wine producers will often blend Baga with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Touriga Nacional. The best producers in the Bairrada region are able to bring out the full potential of the Baga grape and create wines that exemplify its wonderful qualities.
The white wines of the Bairrada region are often made with the much-loved Fernao Pires grape and also Bical.
Although wine production in the Bairrada region is now flourishing, historically things have been difficult for the region. In the early 18th century, Port produced in the neighboring region the Douro valley was in huge demand in the United Kingdom. In efforts to capitalise on the demand, certain wine producers of the Bairrada region began to export their own wine as Port. Likewise some Port producers were found to have mixed Bairrada wines with their Port in order increase their supply. Recognising that these practices had the potential to damage the reputation of the Port industry, in 1756 the prime minister Sebastio José de Carvalho took an incredibly hard-line approach and ordered the uprooting of every vine in the region. For the following 21 years no wine was produced in the Bairrada region, it was only when the prime minister retired that vines could be planted once again. Needless to say, this historical incident cost the wine industry of the region dearly and it took some time for the region to regain its reputation.
The wines of the Bairrada region are sometimes overlooked, as people are more aware of the regions such as the Douro, Dão and Alentejo. That said, there is no doubt that the wines of the region can be astonishing. Find the elegant red wines and the wonderful, sparkling wines and you will be able to enjoy wine of absolute quality.
For more information about the Bairrada Region, visit the following links that we found to be useful when writing this article: