Bairrada is a Portuguese wine region in the province of Beira Litoral in the center region of the country. It stretches between the cities of Águeda and Coimbra until the dunes of the Atlantic coast side, being a small and narrow region on the coast. It includes the cities of Anadia, Cantanhede, Mealhada, and Oliveira do Bairro.
It borders the region of Lafões (an IPR – ‘Indicação de Proveniencia Regulamentada’, or Indication of Regulated Provenance) and Dão (DOC).
The region has the classification of DOC (‘Denominação de Origem Controlada’ or Controlled Origin Denomination), the highest wine classification in Portugal. The certification of the different wines are made by the Wine Commission of Bairrada (CVB). It’s known for its red wines with dense colors, elevated tannins, and often bell pepper and black currant flavors, made with the local grape type ‘Baga’. The white and sparkling wines are also of high quality, due to the diversity of terrain in the region, and the rosé production is fairly new but growing.
Besides having a long history, the classification is fairly recent. The DOC for white and red wine was certified in 1979 and for sparkling wine, it was in 1991. Besides the DOC, the region also has an IG (‘Indicação Geográfica’ or Geographical Indication), the IG Beira Atlântico also known as ‘Vinho Regional’ (Regional Wine) Beira Atlântico.
This region has a fertile terrain with some hills (not like some other wine regions, so we can consider it ‘flat’), even though most vineyards are made on flat lands, and a mild, maritime climate with a lot of rainfall due to its proximity to the ocean.
It’s here that around 2/3 of the national sparkling wine production takes place, with the city of Anadia being nicknamed ‘Capital do Espumante’ or ‘Sparkling Wine Capital’.
History of Bairrada Wine
The wine production in Bairrada can be traced back to the 10th century when the region was conquered by the Christian Portuguese from the Moors.
Due to its proximity to Porto, this region was used already in the 17th century by the Port wine producers who would blend Bairrada wines with the wines coming from the Douro region and sold them to the British, as to be able to supply this growing market.
In the 19th century, this wine region became known by its own name as one that had good quality wines. This was because people that were traveling throughout the country would stop there for the famous ‘Bairrada piglet’, a very famous dish in all of Portugal, and would drink the region’s wines.
In 1867, a scientist named António Augusto de Aguiar studied the wine production systems and defined the region’s borders. 20 years later, he started the Practical Wine School of Bairrada, with the intention of promoting the region’s wines and better the planting and production techniques. The first outcome of the school was the creation of sparkling wines in the region, in 1890.
And this was what made the region known! Famous for being fruity with a mineral touch and a good structure, the sparkling Bairrada wines are a reference and made it the biggest producer of this wine in Portugal!
With time, other wines also earned their space, since the producers started to experiment with ‘Baga’, the native grape type of the region. This is the main grape used for red wines and the thing that differentiates it from the rest is its potential for aging which can get to 30 or 40 years easily, and can be used both for still wines and sparkling ones.
The region then became known internationally with the work of the Engineer Luís Pato, who became known as ‘Mr. Baga’. He did a thorough work with these grapes, discovering how to get a better and more authentic wine with them, with the minimum outside interference.
Nowadays, the region is very well known both for its cuisine and for its sparkling wines, putting the idea in the Portuguese culture that when you eat piglet, it must be with a glass of sparkling wine!
Bairrada Wine Region
This region borders the Mondego River on its southern border, the Vouga River on its northern border, the Atlantic Ocean on its East, and the mountains of Buçaco and Caramulo on its West. Besides this, the region has a low altitude.
Bairrada’s location and its climate and soil characteristics make it a unique region. It has a mild and temperate climate with a lot of rainfall, due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. The winters are fresh, long, and rainy, while the Summers are hot but freshened by the Atlantic winds. During the period of the ripening of the grapes, the region has a big thermal amplitude, with the temperature variation reaching 20ºC of difference between the daytime and nighttime.
In this region, there are mainly 2 types of soil used for the production of several wine types: the sandy ones, and the more clayey or muddy ones, from where the name ‘Bairrada’ came (clay in Portuguese is ‘barro’, so Bairrada).
The vineyards are usually planted in small discontinued plots of land that are shared with other crops. This means that the soil changes a lot, making it influence the type of wine that is created there.
Bairrada Wine Grape Types
The most famous grape type in the region, as we’ve mentioned, is the Baga grape. It’s the dominant grape for red wines here and it’s usually planted on the clayish soils. These soils and the region’s climate make its wines be filled with color, highly acidic, and very rich in tannins, giving them a lot of longevity. This grape can be used both for red wines and for the region’s sparkling wines.
Red Wine Grapes
However, besides Baga, other grapes are used for red wines there, such as the Alfrocheiro, Camarate, Castelão, Jaen, Touriga Nacional, and Aragonez grapes. But by law, the Baga grape cannot represent less than 50% of the grapes.
White Wine Grapes
As for white wine grapes, the main ones would be Bical and Fernão Pires (which, in the region is called ‘Maria Gomes’). They are usually also planted in the clayish terrain of the region and create delicate and aromatic white wines. Other grapes include: Arinto, Cercial, Rabo de Ovelha and Verdelho.
Recently, it became allowed for the planting of international grape types, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Pinot Noir and they now share the land with the Portuguese native grapes.
This way, the wines used as a base for natural sparkling wine have to be made with either Arinto, Baga, Bical, Cercial, Maria Gomes, Rabo de Ovelha, Água-Santa, Alfrocheiro-Preto, Bastardo, Castelão, Cercialinho, Chardonnay, Jean, Moreto, Preto Mortágua, Tinta Pinheira or Trincadeira grapes.
Wine Production in Bairrada
The DOC Bairrada seal can be used in White, Red, Rosé, and Sparkling Wines, as well as in “Aguardentes Bagaceiras”, a kind of very strong spirit, traditional throughout Portugal.
The vines that are used for making these wines, should have at least 4 years of grafting. Manual watering should only be done in extreme cases since it should be watered naturally by the rain.
These wines are fixed at 55hl for the red wines and 70hl for the white, rosé, and sparkling. After these numbers, the bottled wine would be considered ‘Table Wine’.
To have the seal, the wine should be approved by the CVB and recognized by the Instituto da Vinha e do Vinho (Institute of the Vine and Wine).
The Portuguese Law specifies the authorized and recommended grape types for the wine production in the Bairrada DOC, also giving directions on how to make the different types of wines.
The wines that don’t follow these directions or don’t have the approved grape types, can’t get the DOC Bairrada seal and get the IG or ‘Vinho Regional’ Beira Atlântico seal.
Bairrada Wine Suggestions: Best Wine in Bairrada
In case you’re looking to buy a good Bairrada wine, here are some brands you can trust to have a very good experience, according to the 2019 contest “The Best Bairrada Wines 2019”:
- São Domingos
- Medusa Reserva Branco
- Positive Wine
- Quinta do Poço do Lobo
- Marquês de Marialva
- QMF Blush
- Casa do Canto
- Touriga Nacional
- Ânfora 296
As for Sparkling Wines, according to the CVB 2020 contest “Bairrada Sparkling Wines Contest 2021”, these are some of the best brands:
- Íssimo Baga-Bairrada
- António Marinha
- Casa do Canto
- Luiz Costa
- Marquês de Marialva
- Montanha Real
- Primavera Bical
- Quinta dos Abibes
3 Best Wine Tours in Bairrada
If you’re a nature AND a wine lover, this is the best trip for you! Visit the prestigious Bairrada wine region and learn about its winemaking history and heritage while you taste this region’s famous sparkling wine.
Afterward, explore the amazing Bussaco Forest, filled with incredible nature and beautiful monuments! Then, stop at a local restaurant to try the main dish of the region, the roasted piglet.
If you’re in the area of Aveiro or Coimbra but you want to get out of the city and spend a day in the chilled wine country, catch this tour. You will spend an entire day visiting different vineyards in Bairrada and learning about the winemaking process while tasting the different wines. You will be able to see all around the vineyard, from walking between the vines to going to the cellar tunnels.
Now this one is for the sporty people out there! You will get the best of all the worlds, with the wonderful scenery of the vineyards while you cycle throughout Bairrada Route and a visit to one of the traditional wineries to finish with a tasteful wine tasting.
Book Cycling Experience with Wine Tasting