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Bairrada, located in central northern Portugal, is part of the nation’s Beiras region. While Beiras itself extends from the Atlantic coastline to the Spanish border, Bairrada is located in the western, coastal part. Bairrada is best known for its red wines made from the Baga, Castelao and Rufete grapes. These wines tend to be darker and richer than other wines. The wines made from Baga, especially, are known as intense, tannic and deeply colored.
In terms of red wine production, Baga accounts for nearly 75% of all red wines from Bairrada. Sometimes these Baga wines are softened and given greater complexity by adding Merlot, Cabernet or Touriga Nacional grapes. In terms of white wine production, the two most popular varietals include Fernao Pires (also known as Maria Gomes) and Bical. The wines made from Bical are especially prized, often being aromatic like an aged Riesling. There are also some sparkling wines produced in Bairrada.
While Bairrada officially became a denomination de Origen (DO) in 1980, the winemaking tradition in the region actually stretches back several centuries. At times, it has been a colorful history. For example, back in the 18th century, a controversy involving Porto producers and winemakers in Bairrada resulted in all of the region’s vineyards being uprooted by the government.
The word “Bairrada” is derived from the Portuguese word meaning “clay.” This is a result of the limestone-rich clay soils that are one of the distinctive features of the region. In terms of climate, the moderating influence of the Atlantic Ocean has been a significant influence on the types of grapes that can be grown in Bairrada.