Baga is a dark-skinned, sturdy and highly tannic grape variety that reaches its apogee in the central Portuguese wine region of Bairrada, although it is also found in nearby Dão and Ribatejo where it is blended across other indigenous grape varieties. Nevertheless, Bairrada's tireless ambassador for quality, Luis Pato, has almost singlehandedly nurtured an inextricable link between Bairrada, the Baga grape,and high quality single varietal expressions from a number of his single plots.
The name Baga means 'droplet', although this fails to communicate the ferocity of Baga's tannins in its young wines. These demand time to lengthen, polymerize and in doing so, soften. In other words, patience is not merely recommended, but demanded by this unique grape variety whose ratio of skin to pulp makes even Cabernet Sauvignon appear gentle!
Given Baga's physiognomy, Baga requires a warm to very warm growing season to achieve full physiological ripeness. While this seems incongruous given the need for freshness (especially in southern European regions that can often be too warm for eminently drinkable wines), like Mourvèdre perhaps, Baga boasts naturally high level of acidity allowing for the avoidance of desiccated fruit and flat, uninteresting wine styles.
Baga is far from the easiest of varieties to cultivate, however. It is naturally prolific, demanding green harvests, less productive root stock and astute site selection to showcase the variety's merits. Moreover, while Baga is highly resistant to powdery mildew (odium) it is susceptible to other forms of rot which are a constant scourge in the damp autumn conditions common along Portugal's Atlantic coast. During ripening also, this forces growers to choose whether to pick early and risk under-ripe, overtly astringent wines, or to wait and risk the prospect of cooler, damp weather.