Monday, 5 October 2015

Bairrada’s ‘Godfather’, Luis Pato

If you don’t know Luis Pato, owner of the winery of the same name in Bairrada, Portugal, his casual and suntan look probably leads you to think he is just one of the many winegrowers making rustic style wine in a small village somewhere in Portugal and that the wine is mainly for local consumption.

Luis is a pioneer winemaker in Bairrada, the wine region to the west of Dão and north of Lisbon in Portugal, known for its tannic red wine made from Baga grapes. Luis was the first winemaker, back in 1985, to destem the grapes prior to fermentation and used French oak for ageing, thus taming its tannin and rusticity making it more approachable. In 1988, he planted ungrafted Baga on sandy soil to make a pre-phyloxera wine. Pé Franco was born in 1995, seven years after the vines were planted.

And if this is not enough, Luis made the first red wine with white grapes in 2011 to celebrate the birth of his second grandson. It is 94% Maria Gomes (also called Fernão Pires, a white grape) and 6% Baga's skin. Since regulation allows a wine not to state the grapes under 15%, Luis can name this wine as a single varietal white wine. He was experimenting with no sulphur red wine in 2013, it didn't’ work but he continues trying.

Luis makes sparkling, white and red. We tasted 13 of his wines plus five back vintages. I’m particularly impressed by these:

Luis Pato Baga Método Antigo Espumante 2013: a sparkling made in Rural Method (only one fermentation first began in tank then the fermenting wine is transferred to sealed bottles to finish fermentation, trapping the carbon dioxide inside). It is probably not everyone’s cup of tea as it tasted different in a nice way
- with bright red fruits and a bit of tannin.

Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Branco 2013: a white wine made from Bical, Cerceal and Sercialinho, all native Portuguese grapes. It is fresh, zesty with a mineral note. The 2003 vintage reminded me of an aged Riesling. I was surprised when Haigan Wong from Adega Royale, the importer of Luis Pato, told me this is the ‘entry level’ white wine.

Quinta da Ribeirinho Pé Franco Tinto 2008: 100% Baga from ungrafted wine. Black fruits with a hint of floral, a structured yet graceful wine reminded me of a Nebbiolo. The back vintage we tasted (2001 I seem to remember) showed that that the wine can age well.

Luis Pato is available from Adega Royale (an importer focus on Portuguese wine).

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