Bágeiras sparklers

quinta-da-bageiras.jpg

Chances are that you spend too much money on some habit or another. You might have a weakness for expensive clothes. You might collect porcelain figurines or, if you’re loaded, classic cars. Perhaps you can’t help buying a daily $4 latte. My wife spends muito dinheiro on her ongoing project to turn our house and terrace into a jungle.

I spend too much money on wine. There, I said it. I can’t pass within 150 yards of a wine shop without popping my head in and walking out with an armful of bottles and an empty wallet.

The obvious solution to this problem is to buy and drink less wine, but come on. We all know that that isn’t going to happen. The next best thing is to buy cheaper wine, but I’m not going to just ditch my standards and start guzzling Yellowtail. So, I’m always on the lookout for bargains. I bet you are too.

Well, have I got a bargain for you: sparkling wine from Bairrada.

Most people don’t associate Portugal with sparkling wine, and if they have heard of Bairrada at all, it’s probably for still red wines. But Bairrada, with its cool, maritime climate and clay-limestone soils, is perfect for sparkling wine production, and traditional-method (i.e., Champagne method) bubbly has been made here for decades.

Most people don’t associate Portugal with sparkling wine, and if they have heard of Bairrada at all, it’s probably for still red wines. But Bairrada, with its cool, maritime climate and clay-limestone soils, is perfect for sparkling wine production.

I could happily drink Champagne with every meal, so it was a delight to discover Quinta das Bágeiras (literally, “farm of the bonfires,” thus the bonfire symbol on every label). Mário Sérgio started the estate in 1989, cobbling it together from several family vineyards that had previously produced bulk wine for the local cooperative.

Mário makes excellent sparkling wine, along with a range of still whites and reds, all of them made with 100% estate fruit. The grapes are picked by hand, fermented with native yeasts, and made with minimal intervention. The sparkling wines have no added sugar (making them completely dry, or bruto natural), spend a minimum of 12 months on the lees, and are riddled the old fashioned way, by hand in wooden pupitres.

Mário Sérgio makes excellent sparkling wine, along with a range of still whites and reds, all of them made with 100% estate fruit.

Anywhere else on the planet, traditional-method, small-production sparkling wine made literally by hand with estate fruit would cost a minimum of €20 a bottle. Incredibly, Quinta das Bágeiras’ basic white sparkler sells for about €7 here, and can be found in the US for under $15. It’s light and fresh, but has great cut and intensity. It is made primarily with the Maria Gomes grape (confusingly called Fernão Pires in the rest of Portugal), along with some Bical for grip and Cerceal for a pleasing sour note.

The rosé, made from 100% Baga, the primary red grape in the region, costs a whopping €1 more. It’s a little less fruity than the white, with a hint of bitter grapefruit peel, just the thing for washing down Bairrada’s other famous export, leitão.