Baga Grapes Goes Both Ways And Makes Reds And Whites

A grape that goes both red and white

Some grapes make great red wines, and others yield magnificent whites.

But a select few are what might be called "enologically ambidextrous": capable of doing both. One such grape is Baga, the staple of a tiny, little-known region of Portugal called Bairrada.

Red-skinned and tannic, it produces some seriously hearty and deeply concentrated reds, the best examples of which could mature for decades.

But the Baga showcases its remarkable versatility when blended to make sparkling wines. Produced in the traditional Champagne method, these wines display a richness and lovely acidic lift. Try one red and one sparkling wine to understand how well Baga can play both sides of the field.

2010 Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Tinto ($25 for 750 ml; buy here): Arguably the region's most iconic winemaker, Luis Pato uses the Baga grape in some of Bairrada's most exceptional juices. This bottling reveals the grape's succulent red side with notes of spicy green peppercorn, blackberry fruit and a whiff of smoked meats.

NV Caves Alianca Reserva Bruto Bairrada ($14 for 750 ml; buy here): This traditional blend of Baga, with several local white varieties, showcases the grape's breathtaking bubbly side, offering its lively fizz and bright wash of citrus and herbs.