Jose Maria Da Fonseca Domingos Touriga Nacional & Syrah 2009
What is it that fuels the Soares Franco family’s passion and commitment to producing outstanding wines at the J.M. da Fonseca winery? Perhaps it is their venerable, centuries-old history, their considerable breadth of experience across Portugal’s top viticultural regions, or their commitment to the people and land behind each bottle. For seven generations, J.M. da Fonseca wines have been enjoyed around the world. It is this dedication to quality production year after year that makes this family the leading ambassadors for dine Portuguese wines.
José Maria da Fonseca started his namesake company in 1834 in the Setúbal Peninsula, Portugal’s stunningly beautiful coastal region. Starting with the production of Moscatels de Setúbal, sweet, fortified wines, for which Fonseca helped earn the D.O.C. status for, he quickly started gaining recognition at home and abroad. Forward thinking and adventurous, Fonseca made history in 1850 when he bottled the first still Portuguese red wine from his Periquita vineyard. So impressed by the quality of Periquita and the portfolio of wines, the then King of Portugal bestowed royal order on "the winery facilities of Mr. Fonseca in recognition of their modernity, cleanliness and efficiency." Fortunately for the rest of the wine loving world, the family has taken this order very seriously and continues to execute all aspects of winemaking with absolute dedication, care and innovation.
Throughout the generations, J.M. da Fonseca has expanded into some of Portugal’s top viticultural regions, including Domini and Domini Plus from the Douro Valley in the north and José de Sousa and Ripanço, in the southern Alentejo region. The largest vineyard holdings are in Setúbal, home to the Periquita range of wines. The Villa Nogueira de Azetão estate, where the vineyards are planted, lie a short distance from Lisbon, across the Tagus River. Here, vineyards enjoy the benefits of a sun-drenched maritime climate and a varied soil composition that incorporates elements of sand, clay and lime.
Sixth generation and head winemaker, Domingos Soares Franco, along with his team of enologists, have undertaken a wide range of research, experiments and innovative techniques that continues to shape and progress Portuguese viticulture. Promoting these efforts is seventh generation António Maria Soares Franco, nephew of Domingos, who leads the marketing and commercial components of the winery. Tireless ambassadors, António, Domingos and the entire J.M. da Fonseca winery family work hard to produce and promote fine Portuguese wines around the world, as they have for nearly 200 years.
Best known for intense, impressive and age-worthy fortified wines, Portugal relies almost exclusively on its many indigenous grape varieties. Bordering Spain to its north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean on its west and south coasts, this is a land where tradition reigns supreme, due to its relative geographical and, for much of the 20th century, political isolation. A long and narrow but small country, Portugal claims considerable diversity in climate and wine styles, with milder weather in the north and significantly more rainfall near the coast.
While Port (named after its city of Oporto on the Atlantic Coast at the end of the Douro Valley), made Portugal famous, Portugal is also an excellent source of dry red and white Portuguese wines of various styles.
The Douro Valley produces full-bodied and concentrated dry red Portuguese wines made from the same set of grape varieties used for Port, which include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, among a long list of others in minor proportions.
Other dry Portuguese wines include the tart, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde white wine, made in the north, and the bright, elegant reds and whites of the Dão as well as the bold, and fruit-driven reds and whites of the southern, Alentejo.
The nation’s other important fortified wine, Madeira, is produced on the eponymous island off the North African coast.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended red wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged resulting in a wide variety of red wine styles. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a red wine blend variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.
How to Serve Red Wine
A common piece of advice is to serve red wine at “room temperature,” but this suggestion is imprecise. After all, room temperature in January is likely to be quite different than in August, even considering the possible effect of central heating and air conditioning systems. The proper temperature to aim for is 55° F to 60° F for lighter-bodied reds and 60° F to 65° F for fuller-bodied wines.
How Long Does Red Wine Last?
Once opened and re-corked, a bottle stored in a cool, dark environment (like your fridge) will stay fresh and nicely drinkable for a day or two. There are products available that can extend that period by a couple of days. As for unopened bottles, optimal storage means keeping them on their sides in a moderately humid environment at about 57° F. Red wines stored in this manner will stay good – and possibly improve – for anywhere from one year to multiple decades. Assessing how long to hold on to a bottle is a complicated science. If you are planning long-term storage of your reds, seek the advice of a wine professional.