95-point Red from Portugal’s Mustachioed Maverick
Our first taste of the 2001 Luis Pato Quinta do Moinho Vinho Regional Beiras came at a cozy and dimly lit restaurant in Lisbon called Enoteca Chafariz Do Vinho. The Enoteca’s cellar, which burrows deep underneath a Roman ruin, was laden with pristine Bairrada and Dao wines dating back to the 1950s. And even though the 2001 Pato led off the long procession of wines that accompanied our four-hour meal, it is the one that has lingered in our memory: Garnet-colored, powerful, and boasting dense blackberry and cherry and exotic aromas of leather and spice, this newly re-released gem delivers the characteristics of top-flight Rioja and Nebbiolo, and does it for a fraction of the price. A perfectly aged 95-pointer that is a must-have for fans of Old World wines.
Luis Pato is one of southern Europe’s top winemakers, a mustachioed maverick whose operation has been honored by Wine & Spirits magazine as one of the Top 100 wineries in the world. He specializes in his region’s indigenous grapes, and The Wine Advocate has called him “Bairrada’s most iconic producer.” Still, Pato has bristled under local labeling regulations, and has therefore elected to work under the broader IGP Beiras category in order to maximize his autonomy, as well as the potential of his wines.
Pato has been lauded for his work with the better-known Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cão varieties, but his work with the Baga variety has made him a household name among aficionados of Portuguese wines. Pato was the first to prove that, when properly cultivated and aged, Baga can achieve a mesmerizing elegance and aromatic intensity that rivals that of top-level Nebbiolo and Rioja: no winemaker has ever achieved a higher Wine Advocate score for Baga.
He credits two key factors with elevating the variety in Bairrada: the cool maritime climate, which infuses grapes with vibrancy and freshness, and the moist clay-limestone soils, which lend richness and lusciousness to the wine. But Pato is just being humble. We happen to know that the third and perhaps most crucial factor is expertise, and this wine is crafted by the peerless vintner who has ushered this dark, full-bodied grape variety onto the world stage.
So what should one expect from a Baga that was bottled by the variety’s marquee producer and is now nearing two decades of age? A gorgeous garnet wine that shows its age in its hazy appearance, and boasts densely packed aromas of stewed blackberry, dried cherry, leather, and a complex array of spices. It is muscular, full-bodied, and expresses itself like well-aged traditional Rioja or Barolo, minus the dramatic difference in price. So think about how much a 95-point, two-decade-old wine from one of those world-famous regions would set you back. Then make your move.