Food & Wine Photo Credit:

You Should Get To Know Baga

Because it's one of the few grapes that's fought off the globalization trend.

Quinta de Encontro 2012 $18

I was in New York a few months back and I ducked out of my hotel to try and source a decent wine shop and, in so doing, sidestep the punitive and wholly unreasonable mini bar tariffs. I was in the Financial District, which isn’t exactly teeming with anything, but as luck would have it there was a store in the brand new building just across a walkway from my hotel. I walked in and …whoa. Rows of Champagne, stacks of first growth Bordeaux, Grand Cru Burgundies, all at prices that made me think about retreating to the mini-bar. It wasn’t that it was New York, which even it it’s toniest neighbourhoods has far better wine prices than BC does, but something else. I started chatting with a clerk in an impeccably pressed white blouse and commented on how surprised I was by the upscale election in such a small, out of the way shop. “It’s the building”, she said, and noticing I was still clueless she added, “This is Goldman Sachs new headquarters”.

Given that I’m not quite Lloyd Blancfein, it became clear I was going to have to use my wits rather than my finances to find a decent bottle. I talked acidity with the clerk, which removed a whole raft of pricey California Cabs (and sadly a fair bit if modern Bordeaux as well). I talked about still liking the firm tannins that so many new winemakers have found a way to banish and a few more unattainable shelves fell away. It was then that the clerk asked what I thought about Baga to which I answered my stock answer when I have no idea what someone is talking about:”I like it when I can get it, but it’s so tricky to find, no”?

But did she have the bottle for me—100% Baga, the mean and dark and wholly unique grape that flourishes in the Bairrada region of Portugal. The wine was dense and subdued and tannic but still very drinkable out of a water glass from my bathroom. And it was $17.

Wine discovery stories like this almost never end well for returning British Columbians. Scenario #1: your new find is unavailable in the Province. Scenario #2: it’s available and three times the price. This one wasn’t so bad—it turns out the BCLDB did have a single Baga and it’s really quite good—but it’s $30, which is getting up there for the experimental grape range. But a little searching of the private store brought me to this wine—it’s Baga cut with merlot, which isn’t the worst idea given the former’s tannic structure and the latter ability to soften the edges of brutes. But this bottle still has blackberry and black current and herbaceous notes of Baga—and it’s $18.

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