The President of the Bairrada Vitivinicultural Commission (created in 1986), Pedro Soares, briefly summarized the path of these last often troubled years but above all singular and genuine paying homage to all who have been defending and valuing the territory, grapes and wines produced in Bairrada. More than focusing on the past and guessing the future, he appealed to the importance of focusing on the present, through actions based on plurality – “Valuing together, because together we are even stronger!” – and on knowledge – “We have to do better based on knowledge. We have to make less mistakes. The (co) creation of value is fundamental for a Demarcated Region”. He believes that the role of the Wine Commissions should not be limited to the mere certification of products or production. “We have to be aware of the entire wine ecosystem, since the production of grapes, to environmental concerns; from the balanced management of resources, to wine tourism; or sustainability, not forgetting innovation. ”, he adds.
The Minister of Agriculture was in the region having started her journey at the Bairrada Wine Museum which she visited and where she held a working meeting with representatives of different institutions related to the region and wine. This was followed by a commemorative lunch for the 40 Years of the Demarcated Region at the Curia Palace Hotel and a visit to the São João Caves.
Maria do Céu Albuquerque was very satisfied with this visit because as she said: “more than concerns, I heard projects; and very interesting projects, namely the one that involves the creation of the Sparkling Wine Research Center, with the objective of working on production, but also creating better conditions to increase its internal consumption and place it more competitively on the foreign market. This project fully complies with the Government’s strategy and involves the creation of a set of research centers and experimental stations at national level, revitalizing existing equipment, involving the Ministry of Agriculture in partnership with the actors of the territory as Municipalities, Intermunicipal Communities, but also science and technology institutions. It is a way of creating conditions to promote agriculture, its products and increase its share in the national economy. Soon we will be presenting our agenda for innovation, where this aspect will be available and enter into public discussion. ”.
Bairrada, a portrait from 40 years ago
According to the data available at the time, the total hectares of vines corresponded to 12,000 hectares and the wine production came from cooperative wineries – from Águeda, Cantanhede, Mealhada, Mogofores, Souselas and Vilarinho do Bairro. Much of the economic activity was guaranteed by the wine cellars and most of the marketed product was made from lots of wine purchased at low cost from producers in other regions of the country. After bottling, it was sold, mainly, to the foreign market, namely to the former Portuguese colonies, particularly Brazil. The proximity of the ports of Figueira da Foz, Aveiro and Leixões was decisive for the business. The number of bottling producers was very residual.
Bairrada in the present
Currently, the Bairrada Demarcated Region which lies between the rivers Vouga (to the north) and Mondego (to the south) and the Serras do Buçaco (to the west) and the Caramulo (to the east), consists of eight counties – Águeda, Anadia, Aveiro, Cantanhede, Coimbra, Mealhada, Oliveira do Bairro and Vagos – and counts about 2,400 wine producers, who explore almost more than 6,000 hectares of vineyards. “We lost a lot of vineyard area, which we are starting to recover as well as a positive image of the region”, explains Pedro Soares. There are about 110 producers registered with the Bairrada Vitivinicultural Commission, of which 84 place wine on the market with the Bairrada Denomination of Origin (DO) seal.
The region produces more than 50% of the national sparkling wine having its biggest consumer in the national market followed by Brazil, Canada and the United States of America. The 2019 numbers are positive, pointing to an increase in certification, average price of traded sparkling wine and price of grapes.
Bairrada produced more than 21 million liters of wines in 2019, sparkling and still. There was a 15% drop in the production of whites and a 5% drop in reds, but “it was offset by the quality”, affirms in Pedro Soares.
Four decades of Demarcated Region
Regarding the defense of the territory and the Bairrada brand both are extremely important for CVB. “The wine sector is the only one that truly supports the continuous promotion of the Bairrada brand”, justifies Pedro Soares. “In the last ten years the awareness of the importance of being united around a collective brand has been much greater on the part of everyone and the fact that companies such as the traditional cellars which only bottled now have vineyards and / or control about the grapes, made them also have to bet clearly on the region’s brand. ”
Quality and differentiation are the main characteristics of the region. The Atlantic influence, the type of soil, the grape varieties and the people are identified as differentiating factors of Bairrada. “We are the leaders in terms of the production of national sparkling wine and we also want to be the region that can leverage the sparkling wine as a product of collective interest and not as a by-product”, adds Pedro Soares.
However, the business translated into low price and volume, the confusion between non-certified wine and products with Designation of Origin, as well as the use of the Bairrada brand in communication and products when the grapes do not come from the region and / or the products are not submitted to the certification process are considered, during these four decades, as the greatest difficulties in face of the work carried out by CVB. “Whenever someone passes on a non-certified product, such as Bairrada, it is evidently harming those who work for the promotion of the collective brand and who comply with the rules”, explains Pedro Soares.
The future of bairradino sparkling wine
The production of sparkling wines in Bairrada has a market share of more than 50%. The increase in this product is also associated with the Baga Bairrada project founded in 2015 with the aim of enhancing, demarcating and authenticating the (ink) Baga, the region’s flagship grape variety and, at the same time, highlighting the differentiation of Bairrada sparkling wines in order to ensure the growth of the so-called ‘Blanc de Noirs’.
The scarce information on the production of sparkling wine is a current reality. For this reason, CVB is betting on the urgent creation of a center / platform based on the acquisition of knowledge about sparkling wine. The purpose is to promote learning and define concepts inherent to this type of wine produced both in the Bairrada region and at the national level.