This feature is about two grapes from Portugal: Baga and Turbiana.
Wines from the Iberian Penninsula were particularly prized by the Romans. In fact, the Douro was one of the first named wine regions of the world, and today is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The AdviceSisters recently wrote about the most famous of the Duro wines, the fortified variety known as Port. However, there is a lot of variety in Portuguese wines with about 1,000 named varieties in the country. However many of these varietals are different names for the same grape.
The Baga Grape:
The recent Grand Tasting held by Wines of Portugal in New York City, provided such a broad range of wines we focused on one up and coming grape – the Baga.
The Baga grape is considered very difficult to work with, mostly used as a blending grape in table wines as well as a primary grape in that old college standby, Mateus Rosé.
The grape is small and thick-skinned, leading to very high levels of tannins in the juice. It is generally blended with softer grapes; however, new winemaking techniques have allowed producers to develop Baga varietals in recent years.
The Bairrada region is considered the home of the Baga grape, but it can be found in other areas of the country. It is also used in some of the better sparkling wines produced in Portugal.
Baga wines are similar to other high acid reds like Barbara, Brunello de Montalcino, Xinomavro, and Syrah; however, they differ in that they are much leaner, in that is fruit is well hidden.
A well-built Baga can have the structure to stand up to almost anything and can have very pleasant cherry and plum notes, with a smokey finish. If held long enough the wine can develop some very complex flavors including herbal and woody notes.
In fact, the winemakers that we spoke to at the tasting generally recommended holding these wines for a good 10 years to let them develop their full complexity.
We would pair a well-aged Baga with stronger meats like pork, game, duck, and roasts. Mom’s pot-roast would come alive with a great Baga, as would beef stew.
It is traditional to pair the wine with suckling pig in Portugal. However, this is very difficult varietal, particularly if served young. There were a few Baga varietals on show at the event. These included:
Cabo da Roca Reserva Especial Baga (2016: $18): According to the representative, the grapes used in this wine are squeezed old style – by foot.
From the Bairrada, this DOC classified wine had the dark red color of a Red Delicious apple. Its nose featured berries and red fruits, and under the strong tannins, the wine had mineral, earth and tobacco notes.
QdoE Merlot Baga DOC Bairrada (2014: $11): The winemaker blends the Baga grape with Merlot to soften and lighten the wine.
Dark red in color, the nose featured red fruits. On the palate, the Merlot was dominant, the front with plum, while the finish held the acid and mineral notes from the Baga.
Silk & Spice Red Blend (2017: $12): This table wine blends Baga with Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, and Touriga Nacional to create a wine that is the color of a Red Delicious apple with the distinct laundry room nose of Syrah.
On the palate, the wine was ready to drink, with a lot of fruit, particularly cherry, and a peppery, mineral finish.
A bottle of Baga in the cellar for a few years will likely provide a wonderful treat. For more information visit Wines of Portugal at: www.winesofportugal.com
Where Baga is strong and tannic, the Turbiana grape is soft and supple.
Last year we wrote a feature on the Lugana DOC, one of the smallest wine regions in Italy. Located at the very southern tip of Italy’s largest lake, Lake Garda, the Lugana DOC is known mostly from white wines produced from the Turbiana grape, a local variation of Trebbiano.
This year, the Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC made another presentation at Manhattan’s Corkbuzz winebar where we sampled a range of wines from six producers, as well as a few special bottles from other Lugana wineries.
There are five types of Lugana wines: Lugana, a young white wine (90 percent of the wines produced in the region are designated Lugana); Lugana Superiore which is aged at least one year; Lugana Riserva, which is aged at least two years, Lugana Tardiva, a late harvest wine, and Lugana Spumante, a sparkling version of the wine.
In general, Lugana wines are a very pale straw yellow color with greenish highlights.
The wines have a floral nose with hints of almond and a fresh palate, featuring citrus, tropical, honey and herbal notes. They tend to become more complex as they age. The reserve bottlings have more of the tropical and vanilla notes.
These wines pair very well with the types of foods produced in the region. This includes pizza, freshwater fish like trout and perch, pasta dishes – particularly those with cheese sauces or fish based sauces like clam sauce – and cheese.
The sweeter late harvest wines are good for strong cheeses and slightly sweet deserts.
Even though about 90 percent of the wine produced has the Lugana designation, we want to focus on some of the more special bottlings that we sampled. These may no bet available in the United States but represent some of the best we sampled at the event.
Cantina Bulgarini, Lugana DOC Spumante Metodo Classico Stelle di Lugana ($20): This was the belle of the ball. It’ s unfortunate that it’s challenging to find sparkling Lugana in the United States.
Light straw yellow in color with a woody and yeasty nose, the wine had a bright mousse with good yeasty notes up fromt and a lot of apple on the finish.
Monte Cicogna Lugana DOC Imperiale (2017: $13): Light straw yellow wine with hints of licorice on the nose. The palate was smooth with bright acid and notes of almond and honey.
Sgreva Lugana DOC Sirmio (2017: $12): Light straw yellow with a nose redolent in paper-white flowers. This wine had a classic Lugana palate, with good minerality citrus, melon a bit of sour apple and some vanilla notes.
Perla Del Garda Lugana DOC Riserva Madre Perla (2011: $50): Riserva Lugana wines can age well for up to 10 years . This wine was a darker straw yellow in color, with honey and almond distinct on the nose. The 7-year old wine was very fresh and citrusy with vanilla notes.
It might be challenging to find some of these wines, but worth the hunt. For more on Lugana visit: www.consorziolugana.it
Many thanks to our wine and spirits Editor John Dunham for this wine story