At José Maria da Fonseca winery, the wines age by the sound of gregorian chants. Is it why they are so good?
The House Museum José Maria da Fonseca was built in the 19th century and the permanent residence of the family Soares Franco until 1974. Wine has been produced here for nearly 200 years!
Producer of the very famous Periquita wine, made from Castelão – grape variety of this region by excellence – José Maria da Fonseca is also known for its Moscatel de Setúbal, one of the four fortified wines of Portugal.
The House Museum invites you to travel through time by telling the story of the family Fonseca, since when the founder, José Maria himself, started the wine production in 1834, having faced all the obstacles and challenges that beginners often do. The wine was initially produced and sold in bulk, only at a later stage bottled, though still making this winery the very first one in the region to bottle wine for sale.
In the House Museum we can find three aging cellars. Adega dos Teares Velhos was the one that caught my eye. Here, after walking through a narrow corridor between barrels on soaked grounds, and overhearing Gregorian chants, there’s beautiful wine cellar, key locked, where Moscatel wines over 100 years old are stored.
It was in this cellar that I was first told the story of the ‘Moscatel Torna Viagem’, a particular Moscatel Wine that about a century ago would be carried by boat to Brazil in search of new buyers. What was left unsold returned to Portugal, crossing the Equador line again, meanwhile the hot climate and wild seas bettered the wine to a much superior quality, than its original condition upon departure. This was when José Maria da Fonseca realized that not selling his full wine stock in Brazil might have actually turned up in his favour!
Today, Moscatel Torna Viagem is still available for purchase in exclusive wineries and specialized auction houses, at rather expensive prices.
Unfortunately, during the visit, I was not allowed to taste this century old relic, but I was quite impressed with two particular wines: Moscatel Private Collection DSF, fortified with Armagnac, and Private Collection DSF Verdelho white wine.