The Beiras Atlantico is a Vinhos Regional (VR), representing the middle tier of Portugal’s wine classification hierarchy between the general category Vinho (table wine) and the restrictive Denominação de Origem Protegida (DOP), the Portuguese equivalent to the French AOC. As such, Beiras Atlantico allows for wide flexibility in the wine’s style, grape varieties, and geographic origin, so long as all the grapes were grown within the Berias Atlantico’s boundaries. White, rosé, red, sparkling, and semi-sparkling wines are allowed, and the list of allowable grapes in the Beiras Atlantico is long, including indigenous varieties such as Baga and Touriga Nacional for red wine and Bical and Cercial (Sercial) for white wines. Also permitted are more internationally-recognized grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.
The Beiras Atlantico derives some of its identity from Bairrada, the single DOP that it contains, but also defines itself by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean which is crucial for moderating the region’s climate and cooling the weather during the growing season. By contrast, the Terras da Beira VR is the inland counterpart to Beiras Atlantico and experiences a significantly warmer and more continental climate. Local producers often compare the climate of Beiras Atlantico to that found in Burgundy, and it is no coincidence that the focus of production, the thin-skinned red grape Baga, is often compared to Pinot Noir, the primary red grape of Burgundy. With several years of bottle age, Baga can reach the aromatic heights and complexity reminiscent of Burgundy, but what sets it apart from Pinot Noir is a firmer tannic structure and elevated acidity, which makes it seem more akin to Nebbiolo in its youth. Given this, it might be surprising that Baga is not only used to make some of Portugal’s longest-lived red wines, but also some of Portugal’s most celebrated traditional method sparkling wines. Baga enjoys the clay-limestone and schist soils that are found in the region, whereas the sandy soils are better suited to white grape production. Clay-limestone soils produce Baga with lighter tannins whereas schist-based soils produce firmer tannins. Bical, a popular white grape, when made as a varietal wine produces a wine with mineral and herbal complexity. This is similar for Cercial, though Cercial can be even more acidic and takes well to barrel fermentation for added complexity and body when made as a still dry wine.