Wine enthusiasts looking for something different to serve at Easter dinner this year should consider Bairrada, an emerging wine from the central region of Portugal.
Known in America for making fine port, Portugal has been gaining attention on the world stage as a producer of flavorful yet affordable wines. The Portuguese wine making industry spent the past 20 years investing in modernizing equipment and improving cultivation techniques.
In 2008, the push for top-notch quality paid off. Eight Portuguese wines were listed in Wine Enthusiast's 2008 "100 Best Buys,” and four of Portugal's wines made the Wine Spectator's "Top 100" list, all scoring 90 or above.
Bairrada sparkling wine is one of Portugal’s unique varieties gaining notoriety.The word Bairrada comes from the Portuguese word "barros," or clay, and refers to the region’s soil. Winemakers here predominantly use the red Baga grape, known for producing tannic wines with bold color and intense flavor. The combination of the deep grape flavors and rich soil produces a complex wine that has long been paired with roasted suckling pig in Portuguese restaurants.
The flavorful elements that make Bairrada a perfect complement to roasted pork also pair nicely with a smoked ham or subtle lamb roast – the two most popular centerpieces of the American Easter dinner.
A Bairrada label commonly found in the United States is Caves Alianca vineyards, which claims a vast series of six estates throughout Portugal.
Other Bairrada producers to look for are Quinta do Encontro and the region’s most well known winemaker Luis Pato, considered to be the top producer of Baga casta wines.