Filipa Pato: Embracing Biodynamic Practices to Create Authentic, Terroir-Driven Wines in Bairrada with a Focus on Baga

Wine Producers

Filipa Pato: Embracing Biodynamic Practices to Create Authentic, Terroir-Driven Wines in Bairrada with a Focus on Baga


Filipa Pato trained as a chemical engineer but makes authentic wines without makeup. She wants the Baga grape variety and the Bairrada wine region to shine undisturbed. Using old vineyards and minimalist cellar methods, Filipa creates wines that tell their unique story. Baga has now become a symbol of elegance and refinement.

From the third floor, you’ll see turbulent waters and boats in shuttle traffic. Suppose I just imagine away the penguin-stiff bodies that hurry along the quay. In that scenario, I could easily be at a restaurant on Portugal’s coast. Here at Botanica in Finnboda shipyard, they match genuine Portuguese dishes with wines of the same calibre. First out is 3B, a sparkling wine made according to the traditional method with Bairrada’s classic white bouquet, Bical, Cerceal Branco (called Cercial) and the floral Fernão Pires (called Maria Gomes). Concentrated fruit, almost cider-like, with an energetic bite. Producer: Filipa Pato, named Portugal’s best winemaker in 2020.

It is Filipa who says that she makes wines “without makeup”. “We started calling our wines in 2006 when William and I started the business together. We now have 17 hectares (42 acres), completely biodynamic, and a few more vineyards under conversion.”

William Wouters: From sommelier to winemaker – a perfect combination with Filipa Pato

William Wouters is a son of a restaurateur. He has been the Belgian wine waiter champion and the head chef of the Belgian national football team. He is now president of the Belgian Sommelier Guild. And then he makes wine with Filipa. Many consider them the perfect couple for the task. She had the wine in her blood, and he had the wine on the table.

The Rebels of Bairrada: Luís Pato and Maria João Pato

Filipa Pato is the daughter of Luís Pato, the rebel who helped modernise the wines from Bairrada. Contrary to the tradition of mixing grapes, he made a pure Baga as early as 1980. Soon after, he began to destem the grapes, store them in French barrels and plant ungrafted vines to understand the true soul of the grape variety. 1999, he left the appellation Bairrada DOC to make his desired wines.

Filipa Pato’s sister, Maria João Pato, has her project, Duckman, with wild wines flying in an easy-drinking and natural style.

Filipa Pato, a devout practitioner of biodynamic viticulture, nurtures the relationship between fauna and flora in her vineyard. Offering grapes to piglets, she exemplifies the harmonious integration of animals to enrich and vitalize the soil.
Filipa Pato, a devout practitioner of biodynamic viticulture, nurtures the relationship between fauna and flora in her vineyard. Offering grapes to piglets, she exemplifies the harmonious integration of animals to enrich and vitalize the soil. (Photo: Filipa Pato)

From Chemical Engineer to Biodynamic Winemaker

Like her father, Filipa Pato trained as a chemical engineer but then chose the wine. To gain more experience, she has harvested in Bordeaux, Mendoza and Margaret River. “Despite my education, it feels completely normal to work bio-dynamically. I study plants in the region to help protect the vines from downy and powdery mildew. It is about preventing and improving naturally”, says Filipa.

Preserving Ancient Vineyards and Minimal Intervention

The Pato-Wouters pair has only local grape varieties: Baga for red wine and Bical, Cerceal Branco (called Cercial), Arinto and Fernão Pires (called Maria Gomes) for white. They have preserved some ancient vineyards with Baga, which are over 80 years old. One of them, Nossa Missão, a 0.57-hectare (1.4-acre) vineyard, was planted 140 years ago before the ravages of the wine louse (phylloxera).

In the winery, minimal intervention applies. Some wines are stored on amphoras. If barrels are used, they are not small barriques but larger barrels to smooth acidity and tannins and increase the complexity.

Winemaker Filipa Pato gathers wild oregano in her oldest vineyard, Nossa Missão, which is 140 years old. This practice of incorporating local flora exemplifies her commitment to enhancing biodiversity and maintaining the natural balance that defines her crafted wines.
Winemaker Filipa Pato gathers wild oregano in her oldest vineyard, Nossa Missão, which is 140 years old. This practice of incorporating local flora exemplifies her commitment to enhancing biodiversity and maintaining the natural balance that defines her crafted wines. (Photo: Filipa Pato)

Baga: Bairrada’s Flagship Grape that Reflects the Terroir in Portuguese Wines

Crisp, soulful white in all its glory – the black variety Baga is the flagship of Bairrada. So let us talk about these B’s. “Many people compare Baga with Nebbiolo, in warm vintages and Pinot Noir, in the cold. For us, Baga is the distinctive grape variety of Bairrada and one of the two black Portuguese varieties that can reflect their terroir (site). The other one is Ramisco in the Colares region.”

Terroir Expressions of Bairrada’s Villages: Drawing Parallels to Burgundy, Piedmont and the Northern Rhône

Filipa Pato parallels other wines that are good at conveying their site (terroir). They are also varietal wines. She mentions Pinot Noir in Burgundy, Nebbiolo in Piedmont and Syrah in the northern Rhône. “By far, the best example is Burgundy. Vosne Romanée, Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Morey-Saint-Denis, etc. All villages are not even ten kilometres apart. Everything is Pinot Noir, and everything tastes different.”

Even in Bairrada, this idea is becoming more popular. Each village holds its unique character, shaping its expression of Baga. “This is so obvious when we mix our cuvées. Wine production remains consistent, yet each vineyard exudes a unique energy and expression.

The Rise of Baga: From Tannic to Trendy – Bairrada’s Revitalised Wine Star

Filipa also notices a changed attitude towards Baga, partly related to better winemaking. Baga, when young, rewarded those who waited with its tannic and hard character. “Portuguese wine waiters market Baga like never before, and there is an apparent demand from outside. But we must also be honest. Winemaking and viticulture have improved in recent years. Many cooperatives in Bairrada have closed, and the large merchants have left the region.”

It may sound counterproductive, but Filipa only sees that Baga is becoming a brand as a positive. “In other wine regions, such as Douro, Beira Interior, Lisboa and even Alentejo, wine producers make varietal wines from Baga.” We could never have imagined that ten years ago. Baga is back – and even in fashion.”

Filipa tells the story of an American wine waiter who, a few years ago, said that all the best wine regions in the world start with a B: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, Barbaresco, Barossa Valley, the Bekaa Valley – and Bairrada. “That guy deserves a statue here. His statement opened the eyes of local critics.”

In their tranquil winery, winemakers Filipa Pato and William Wouters share a tender moment. Wearing matching 'Baga Terrorista' t-shirts, they playfully express their dedication to the Baga grape. Together, they passionately champion this grape, embodying their love for both their craft and each other.
In their tranquil winery, winemakers Filipa Pato and William Wouters share a tender moment. Wearing matching ‘Baga Terrorista’ t-shirts, they playfully express their dedication to the Baga grape. Together, they passionately champion this grape, embodying their love for both their craft and each other. (Photo: Filipa Pato)

Bairrada: A Diverse Wine Region of Limestone Soils and Sparkling Specialities

As a wine region, Bairrada shares some features with the B celebrities mentioned above. It is a relatively small region but composed of many sites (terroirs) with entirely different conditions. The Atlantic touches the coast as the crow flies 20 kilometres west, contributing to fresh winds. In the east, the mountains rise, and in between are hills and valleys. The soil is dominated by limestone from the Jurassic period, which suits black and white grape varieties alike. Sparkling wine made with the traditional method is a speciality. Filipa Patos 3B is a textbook example of the style. She also makes still white wine, where she ferments a small proportion with the grape skins to add texture.