We met Filipa Pato at a café just off the A1 near Murtede, in the heart of Bairrada territory in central-north Portugal. She wanted us to start in the vineyard. Everything good in wine begins there; Pato herself exemplifies the persona of the wine grower, as opposed to the wine maker.

Following Pato through the lanes of Bairrada.

We followed her SUV out of town into the countryside, and soon we bounced over narrow tracks to find the first of the vineyards she’d show us that day. This first one was perhaps the most special: almost one hectare of up to 130-year-old Baga vines. Pato took over the plot in 2014, to care for them biodynamically, and add to her total of four hectares of legacy Baga vines. Sitting 15 km from the Atlantic, the field’s low elevation benefits also from a small mountain that blocks a bit of the ocean’s influence—morning fog, low clouds.


These dry-farmed vines were traditionally trained on bamboo poles, but she has found that the wind often blows down the bamboo. Alongside the vines grow grasses, fennel, and blackberries, and stately, gnarled olive trees stand throughout the vineyard—this plot is the only one she knows of in Bairrada where the olives grow in the midst of the grapes. Our visit, on August 9, 2017, came the week before harvest—10 days in advance that year because of the hot weather. Across the road, we could see the difference between her plot and another winegrower’s mechanically harvested vineyard. While those vines burgeoned with grapes, Pato’s held only a few bunches on each vine. We tasted the fruit—the concentration of those precious grapes blew me away. No more mystery to me that wines are indeed made in the vineyard.

We piled back into our cars and headed for Óis do Bairro, passing two more of the five vineyards Pato possesses within 15km of the village. The hill town forms her home base, and its vistas take in a wide view of the Bairrada landscape.


Pato specializes in using traditional Bairrada grapes: Baga, Bical, Sercial, and Maria Gomes. The vineyards used for her Nossa white blend (Bical, Sercial, and Maria Gomes) lie next to some owned by her father, Luis Pato, a pioneer in the Baga grape variety. Her 11 hecatres lie on slopes near the village, and they use tractors between the rows to turn over the soil. Her biggest problem here? Snails. The underlying chalk in the soil causes their shells to grow big, and they seem particularly fond of the Bical’s young leaves. We nodded, knowingly; we have our own Snail Problems in our miniscule terroir back in Colares. Her solution? She brings down her chicken flock to eat them.

We trekked on up the hill, and wound our way to the winery home Pato shares with her husband, chef/sommelier William Wouters, and their two children. The couple purchased the property next door to build more production space; currently the cave holds mostly the implements of small-batch winemaking. Amphorae of 500- and 700-liter sizes line the walls, along with barrels and lagares. A collection of empty wine bottles stands sentinel over it all.

The cave at Filipa Pato holds barrels, amphorae, and an ever-growing bottle collection.

Upstairs, we met Wouters as he prepared our lunch; the typical visit involves not only the vineyard tour but also tasting along with Wouters’ excellent work in the kitchen. With a long table set in the midst of the living space, we found our places and started the feast. A menu presented each wine with its paired dish, capped off by leitão (roast suckling pig), a specialty of Bairrada, particularly the area around nearby Mealhada.

We began the tasting with an aperitif: the 3B Extra Brut Rosé; the rest of the wines had an accompaniment as shown below in the tasting notes. The convivial table gave us new friends, new favorite wines, and a promise to return for this year’s vintages.

 

3B Extra Brut Nature Rosé NV

Composed of 90% Baga and 10% Bical grapes, this sparkling wine showed strawberry leaf on the nose, with red currants on the palate and a medium mousse.

Vintage & Producer: NV Filipa Pato

From: VR Bairrada

Style: Medium-bodied & bubbled sparkling wine (espumante)

Variety: Baga and Bical

Pairing: Aperitif

Price: €8,50

 

Nossa Branco 2016

A 100% Bical wine, fermented with wild yeasts, the 2016 Nossa is fully biodynamic. Aged in casks for a year, with 10% of the wine fermented with the skins. Shows a pleasant hay scent on the nose–as if you were up in a barn loft on a summer day–and creaminess with golden currants and brioche on the palate.

Vintage & Producer: 2016 Filipa Pato

From: DOC Bairrada

Style: Medium-bodied white

Variety: Bical

Pairing: Panna cotta of goat cheese with herb jelly

Price: €22

Back label of the Post Quercus 2016

Post Quercus Tinto 2016

A 100% Baga wine, blended from a combination of vineyards, and fermented and aged in amphorae. Cherries and canela (cinnamon) on the nose, with vineyard canes and morello cherries and strawberries on the palate, playing well with the gazpacho pairing.

Vintage & Producer: 2016 Filipa Pato

From: DOC Bairrada

Style: Medium-bodied red

Variety: Baga

Pairing: Gazpacho of tomatoes with strawberries and basil

Price: €11

The 2015 Nossa Tinto

Nossa Tinto 2015

From the old vines—the 130-year-olds that we saw—with only 12% abv for an elegant profile. Touches of saddle leather and tea rose plus fennel on the nose for a complex beginning. On the palate, still young and a bit stemmy, but with bright blackberries showing through.

Vintage & Producer: 2015 Filipa Pato

From: DOC Bairrada

Style: Elegant red

Variety: Baga

Pairing: Traditional leitão with roasted potatoes and thyme

Price: €27



Nossa Branco 2013 Magnum

Pato pulled this magnum from their cellar, and what a treat! The intensity of a Montrachet, said my partner, Stephen—I’ll take his word for it, as I need more Montrachet in my experience, clearly! Plump and fruity sultanas and golden plums on the palate, with a warm straw nose.

Vintage & Producer: 2013 Filipa Pato

From: DOC Bairrada

Style: Full-bodied white

Variety: Bical

Pairing: Serra da Estrella cheese

Price: N/A



Espirito de Baga 2013

From 100% Baga grapes, this fortified wine doesn’t make DOC status because of restrictions, but it completely captures the “spirit” of Bairrada. Fermentation was halted with brandy, and the wine spent two years in cask. At 18% abv, it rides like a good aged Tawny Port. First, a whiff of peaty Scotch like Llagavulin, with a secondary nose of birch syrup. On the palate, smoky black cherries and a bit of tar. Really intriguing! We brought a bottle home to see how it ages.

Vintage & Producer: 2013 Filipa Pato

From: VR Bairrada

Style: Red fortified wine

Variety: Baga

Pairing: Chilled soup of summer fruits

Price: €28

 

Filipa Pato Branco 2015

Normally, the tasting stops here, but Pato also poured us her 2015 Branco, a blend of Bical and Arinto, one of our favorite grapes. With a lively orange blossom nose, a white peachy palate, and a bit of effervescence, it capped off a fine afternoon of food, wine, and friends.

Vintage & Producer: 2015 Filipa Pato

From: DOC Bairrada

Style: Medium-bodied, floral white

Variety: Bical and Arinto

Price: €8,50