Baga a dark-skinned grape variety used to make red wines in the central coast of Portugal. It is particularly prevalent in the Bairrada region, where Baga vines far outnumber those of any other red wine variety. The neighboring Dao and Ribatejo regions also use Baga, traditionally in blends but increasingly in varietal wines.
Baga is notable for the thickness of its grape skin in proportion to the size of the small berries. Its name means 'berry' or, perhaps more evocatively, 'droplet', although neither of these terms capture the tannic, astringent nature of many wines made from Baga grapes.
A dry, warm growing season is required to get late-ripening Baga berries to full phenolic ripeness. Fortunately the variety also has a naturally high level of acidity, which means the grapes can be harvested late in the season without the resulting wine seeming flat or baked.
Baga is far from the easiest of varieties to cultivate for the production of high quality wines. The vines are high-yielding, which makes them an attractive prospect for bulk, or lower quality wine production. Making distinctive wines with structure and balance from the variety requires great care and attention in the vineyard.
Baga is highly resistant to powdery mildew but susceptible to other forms of rot, which take hold particularly in the damp autumn conditions common along Portugal's Atlantic coast. The humidity of the maritime climate here means that viticulturalists are faced with an important decision at harvest time: picking earlier will help avoid rot but carries the risk of overly tannic, acidic wines, while picking later allows the grapes to ripen fully, but carries the daily threat of rot-inducing rains.
A staggering proportion of the Portugal's Baga crop is used in Mateus Rose, the popular medium-sweet rose.
Synonyms include: Tinta Bairrada, Tinta Fina, Tinta Poeirinha.
Food matches include:
Europe: Sopa da Pedra de Almeirim (rustic pork and bean soup)
Australasia/Oceania: Smoked Tasmanian ocean trout (rosé)