What to Drink for an Earthquake

So what does one drink for an earthquake?

There are, of course, the easy routes: any wine designated “Earthquake” like the excellent line by Michael-David. But that’s too easy. Besides, the designation is a statement on the wine, and not the event. We’re looking for a wine to accompany a seismic event, not to be the seismic event.

So let’s go the route of deconstructing the word itself. Turn to a Rhône Syrah or a Côte du Nuits Burgundy or any other “earthy,” Old World offering and we have the “earth” covered. But what about the second half of the word: “quake?”

Quake connotes motion which in turn, means “not still.” Wine that’s not still is sparkling, and that takes us, not straight to a good, earthy (yeasty anyway) Champagne, but further west. Earthquakes are rare for most of us and always fraught with potential danger to property and person. That calls for an equally “dangerous” grape, and that, my friends, takes us to the Baga.

Baga  is the signature grape of Bairrada in northern Portugal. The grapes are small and thick-skinned, and when vinified in the traditional, “whole cluster” press method, they produce highly tannic, aromatic wines that require significant cellar time before drinking (I once had a bottle that, upon opening 15 years after vintage was still as vibrant in color and sternly structured as a new Napa Cab bottling). Dangerous, indeed.

Luis Pato Baga Espumante

But it’s not the big Bairrada that we choose. For the earthquake imbiber, our selection is Luis Pato’s Sparkling Baga.

Made in the “traditional” method (like Champagne), Pato gives us a deep salmon red wine with a heady nose of watermelon and old flowers. The palate gives a dusk dynamic as it goes from light watermelon on entry, to deeper red berries mid-palate, and on to a brooding, graphite and leather finish. All of this is rounded out by a good balance of acidity and fruit, and an alcohol level at a modest 12%: just enough to keep you mellow, but not so much that you go all fluid as the earth moves under your feet.

This wine is always produced from a single vintage, however Pato sells it as non-vintage to accommodate Portuguese wine law. A four-digit “lot” number — that looks curiously like a recent year — will give you a clue as to its age. Drink it within four years of that number and you should enjoy it, though it would be interesting to see if this can age as well as its still counterpart.

Like an earthquake in the eastern US, this is a sparkling experience that you’re probably unfamiliar with. But in the back of your mind, you know you’re due.

Shake, baby. Shake.

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