Baga is one of the highest yielding Portuguese red wine grape varieties, planted largely in the Bairrada DOC region. Bairrada is the famous home of this difficult Baga grape, but it is also found widely elsewhere in the Beiras, including Dão and Ribatejo where it is blended across other indigenous grape varieties. Baga grapes are small, dark thick-skinned - which makes for high tannin levels with high acidity, with the grapes are known to ripen late, and even poorly in cooler, conditions. Baga - the name meaning ‘berry’ performs best on clay soils and requires good sun exposure.
Even then, it is highly susceptible to rot, especially in the regions September rains. The vines produce extensive foliage, creating a lot of work in the vineyard for quality-conscious grape growers.
Baga requires a very warm growing season to achieve full physiological ripeness, Baga wines have deep colour and a rich but lean, tannic, high-acid structure, with clear flavours of berries and black plums and hints of coffee, tobacco and smoke, this unique grape variety whose ratio of skin to pulp makes even Cabernet Sauvignon appear gentle!
Though often astringent when young, Baga wines, especially the best ones from Bairrada can age remarkably well, softening and gaining elegance and a herb, cedar note, dried red fruits, that age into elegant wines of great complexity.
The aroma starts out with red cherry/berry fruit developing into red/black plum, tobacco and coffee bean flavours finishing with expansive complexity. The grape’s ample acid leads to quality sparkling wine production, and it is often proclaimed as the best in Portugal comes from the region of Bairrada. Baga, wine, has an acquired taste for many; it’s not for the faint of heart.
With the vibrant acidity and ample tannins it pairs well with rich foods. Locally it is traditional to pair with rich suckling pig, in other regions pork belly to duck, from rich pastas to heavy stews. As a sparkling wine, they can pair well with tapas to spring rolls, samosas to varied crudités.