Luis Pato Winery (Barraida DOC), Aveiro District, Portugal

Wine: The benchmark winery of Barraida. Excellent wines based on baga, the traditional local red grape, as well as other permitted DOC red/white grapes. Baga are small, thick-skinned and grow best in clay soils, which is what Barraida is famous for. The grapes make high tannin, high concentration and high acid wines with dark fruits, coffee, tobacco and smoke aromas/flavors. An analogue is cabernet sauvignon in Bordeaux, and Barraida also has a similar maritime climate. For the Vinhas Velhas (old vines) reds they make a first pass through the vineyards to pick grapes for their lovely "blanc de noir" sparkling wines. The remaining grapes get longer "hang time" to ripen and further concentrate. 

Tastings are really fun here as you get to try the current releases from specific vineyard sites and vintages plus library (older years) wines to get a sense of how the wines age for both whites and reds. White Vinhas Velhas are a blend of bical, cerceal and sercialinho and some single varietal bottlings of Maria Gomez (aromatic and similar to viognier, rousanne or torrontes). Luis now works with his daughter, Filipa, who also makes great wines!

My take: Highly recommended! I respect this region's devotion to its traditional grapes like baga, Maria Gomez (fernão pires), bical, cerceal and sercialinho. The tour is structured to be informative both to newcomers to wine and those who know more. In nice weather the tastings are held on a terrace overlooking a vineyard. The staff are very friendly and know their stuff. Despite being a famous, modern and large(ish) operation, the experience here still feels like you are visiting a smaller, family-run winery and has a relaxed, casual vibe. A good opportunity to get to know Portuguese varietals and how wines age since you get to taste back vintages. You could visit Luis Pato as part of a trip to colorful, seaside (canals!) Aveiro or Coimbra. Or on the way to Dão.  More on Luis Pato.