Sparkling wines from Bairrada in the spotlight
Portugal is mostly known for its rich, deeply colored red wines and its Vinho Verde, but over the past decadethe Portuguese sparkling wine industry has undergone a revolution, transforming a previously unremarkable category into one of Europe’s most exciting wine styles. Thanks to significant technological advances and new investments in the market, the production of sparkling wines in the country has increased greatly in recent years.
“A few years ago, only Bairrada and Távora-Varosa demonstrated significant production of sparkling wines”, explains Frederico Falcão, President of Wines of Portugal. “Nowadays, every region in Portugal is producing sparkling wines, whose quality has increased immensely thanks to terroir research and improved knowledge of the grapes.”
Over 53% of Portuguese sparkling wines come from the Bairraida region, which which equates to around 7.5 million bottles. Its proximity to the Atlantic makes Bairrada highly suitable for the production of premium sparkling wines. The moderating effects of the ocean breezes and the diurnal range of 20 degrees in the summer are enabling the grapes to maintain high acidity, lending freshness to the resultant wines. In terms of soil profile, most of the vineyards in Bairrada have limestone-rich, clayey soils, (‘barro’ means clay in Portuguese), that are very well suited to production of sparkling wines.
According to Frederico Falcão, sparkling wine production in the Bairrada region started as early as 1890: “Thewine school in Bairrada started to research and study sparkling wines at the end of the 19th century, thus encouraging local vintners to make wines in this style.”
48% of sparkling wine produced in Bairrada is certified DOC Bairrada Espumante. There are 28 grapes authorized in the appellation, but most of the sparkling wines are made from Baga, Maria Gomes, Bical, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. “Baga is a local grape, which finds the perfect location in the calcareous soils of Bairrada and is in fact the prime variety in the region. It produces elegant and complex sparkling wines with balanced acidity”, recounts Frederico Falcão.
“Bairrada is the only region in Portugal where the consumption of sparkling wine is constant all year round”,points out Federio Falcão. “Although sparkling wine is still very seasonal, with sales peaking around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the consumer market across the country has been growing in recent years”.
From July 1 to 3, the town of Anadia will gather 65 wine experts representing 26 nationalities at the Sparkling Wine Session by Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. The panel will taste and evaluate 960 sparkling wines from 23 countries around the world. Portugal has entered 80 wines.
The president of Wines of Portugal recognizes the great opportunity the event provides for international exposure: “We definitely hope that Portuguese sparkling wines will shine in this competition, but aside from the results, this is an important moment to demonstrate the excellence of Portuguese sparkling wines to international tasters”.