8 Buyers, 1 Store, 8000 Wines

Friday, January 25, 2013

We finally arrived at Luis Pato’s winery running on little else than Encruzado and Jaen sipped that morning at the Quinta dosRoques winery — as well as sheer excitement to meet the rebel winemaker. Finally, we might have the chance to try an obscure red grape, Baga, as well as meet the man who rescued it from extinction. To me, Pato was a sage, and his winery was a necessary destination.
While riding shotgun to a late lunch of roasted pork, I learned from Pato about the nature of winemaking in Bairrada. A former chemical engineer, he had taken over his parent’s vineyard in the early 1980s and then sought to optimize all stages of winemaking. He eventually controlled the high-yielding Baga with two harvests: The first is for sparkling wine, and the second harvest — when the grapes have greater polyphenolic ripeness — he uses for red wines.
At the winery, we tasted some wines out of bottle — such as Vinhas Velhas and Rebel Baga — and then moved into the cellar. Sampling from the barrel was like being in Baga heaven, with Baga from both grafted vines and ungrafted vines and in various stages of maturation. I became enveloped in the dark grape and its dusty-raspberry, damson, and cedar flavors. Pato also revealed himself to be a man with a great sense of humor and passion for what he does.
To see the vines, Pato turned us over to his daughter, Filipa. Filipa is a winemaker in her own right, producing 500 cases of four different wines each year. Through Filipa, we learned how the old vines in Bairrada mix with modern technique. Her take on winemaking is to produce natural wines “without makeup,” as she says, wines that are meant to reflect their terroir. Pato’s silex soil helps produce wines with minerality and good acidity, elegant and refined wines perfectly designed for gastronomy and discerning foodies.
Although we were way behind schedule, there was no way we could say no to dinner at Filipa’s home. Her husband, William, is a Belgian restaurateur from a long line of restaurateurs in Antwerp. He quietly prepared dinner while Filippa and their two young sons wound down from the day. It was the purest, warmest meal of our journey, served with wines that were so honest that they were unforgettable.
I now think of the Patos as saviors of local character, terroir, and the fierce minerality of the Bairrada soil — and the antithesis to a world drowning in Syrah.
It was midnight by the time we made it to the Yeatman Hotel in Oporto.
- Sadie Flateman

This is a continuation from "Portugal On a Mission," a blog post Sadie wrote in July 2012. Click here to read the original post on her travels through Portugal.


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