Bairrada DOC is Portugal's highest classification wine region, located in the Beira province. Situated close to the Atlantic Ocean - which has a moderating effect on the climate. The region is bordered to the north by the Lafões IPR and to the east by the Dão DOC. Bairrada has a mild, maritime climate with abundant rainfall. Although much of the Bairrada region is hilly, the majority of the vineyards are on flatter land. Vineyards are often divided into a multitude of small plots.
The Bairrada region is bordered by the Vouga River to the north, the Mondego River to the south, the Caramulo-Bussaco Mountains in the east and Atlantic Ocean in the west. The region is quite rich in water resources thanks to a number of small rivers that flow across.
The total surface area of this region extends over 108,000 hectares, of which approximately 12,000 hectares are planted with grapes for wine in about 10,000 vineyards. The wine regions name derives from the Portuguese Bairrada - a term to describe clay or loam, which is dominant in the area and is enriched with lime. There are the two main types of soil in which vines grow - clay-limestone and sandy, each influencing the resulting style of wine.
Viticulture has being practiced in Bairrada since the 10th century, when the region gained independence from the Moors. Located south of the major Port wine producing centre of Oporto, the fortunes of Bairrada greatly improved during the 17th century when Port producers, eager to supply the growing British market, would blend Bairrada wines with the product coming from the Douro.
The principal grapes of the Bairrada region includes Baga, Borrado das Moscas, Castelao Frances, Fernao Pires, Rabo de Ovelha and Tinta Pinheira. The region is known for its deep coloured tannic red wines that often have red pepper and black currant flavours - and in more recent times for its emerging rosé production. The boundaries of the Bairrada DOC includes the municipalities of Anadia, Cantanhede, Mealhada and Oliveira do Bairro.
Bairrada is a very important area for quality sparkling wines. As base varietals ideal for sparkling wines need naturally high acidity that the cool Bairrada climate provides. Sparkling Bairrada wines may have the fragrance of the Maria Gomes grapes (also known as Fernão Pires), or they can be made in with a in more mineral style, based perhaps on Arinto, Bical and Cercial, sometimes with Chardonnay added.
There are also some ‘Blancs de Noirs’ being produced based on the Baga varietal. Baga is the traditional local red varietal, typically making tannic wines that can have high acidity if under-ripe, but if ripened fully and handled well the Baga can produce rich, dense fruity reds that age into elegant wines with great complexity.
Since 2003, a large number of non-local varietals has been used in DOC Bairrada wines - national grapes such as Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro as well as other international varietals likes; Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot are growing in use.