Crafted by the “Angelo Gaja” of Portugal
In a 300-word rave, the superlatives chosen by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate to describe this 95-point 2001 Luís Pato Vinha Barrio tripped over each other: a “silky,” “vibrant” effort that was also “remarkable” and “very impressive.” Wine & Spirits’ matching 95-point review gushes that “it offers a flavor and texture you cannot find anywhere.” From Portugal’s legendary Luís Pato — whom Jancis Robinson describes as the “Angelo Gaja of Bairrada” and “one of the most inventive winemakers anywhere” — it can’t be that much of a surprise. Pato has elevated the tiny, thick-skinned Baga grape onto the global stage, transforming the native variety into Portugal’s answer to Old World Red Burgundy or Barolo’s Nebbiolo for its heady aromatics and awesome tannic power. This 16-year old, perfectly cellared 2001 release has just started to soften, giving up mouthwatering red-and-blue-fruit complexity bracketed by exceptionally fine tannins. After some arm-twisting, we came away with just 50 cases at $34.99 per bottle — an incredible value and slam-dunk buy for collectors of age-worthy European reds.
One of southern Europe’s top winemakers — also named a Top 100 Winery by Wine & Spirits magazine — Luís Pato is a mustachioed maverick who specializes in indigenous grapes and has frequently tussled with legislators over local regulations. Though he is, as The Wine Advocate puts it, “Bairrada’s most iconic producer” many of Pato’s wines are labeled under the broader IGP Beiras region to grant him full autonomy. Lauded for his work with Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cão, it’s Baga that made Pato a household name among aficionados of Portugal. He was the first to prove that when properly cultivated and aged, the grape could achieve a mesmerizing Pinot Noir-like elegance and aromatic intensity.
Tied for the highest score ever awarded to a Baga wine at 95 points, Pato credits two key factors for elevating his Bagas: the proximity to the Atlantic, creating a cool maritime climate and infusing grapes with vibrancy and freshness; and the moist clay-limestone soils, contributing to the richness and lusciousness of the wine. We know a third: The guidance of a peerless Portuguese master, responsible for this absolute steal for one of the greatest expressions of the grape ever made.