Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fonseca Terra Prima Porto

Someone recently asked me what the real difference between winemaking and organic winemaking is. In simplest terms, all farmers need to fertilize their crops; whether it be grapes or corn.... organic farmers won't use artificial fertilizers, they use natural fertilizers (and preferably produced on or very close to their own farm).

   And what does this do for the wine we ask? Well nothing really. Nothing you say? But that's the point I say~! Artificial fertilizers use non-organic compounds, they rely on man-made chemistry to do the work of Mother Nature. These compounds leech into the soil, and thus into the food (grapes) and thus into the wine; changing  the wine.

   Organic practices also severely limit the amount of sulphites allowed, which is of vital importance for those of you who find red wines in particular give you a bit of skin flush, headache or a sore tummy. Yes, the sulphites are still there: it's a natural part of the winemaking process. But! But it is severely limited and you should be able to consume organic wines with limited reaction or no reaction at all.

   The patriarch of the port community, Fonseca Guimaraens ( is the first winery in the Douro region of Portugal to adopt certified organic practices for it's port production from start to finish. This includes the aguardente (similar to brandy) that is used to fortify the red wine. And why would House Fonseca make this bold move, years before anyone else in the region is ready to do so?

   Because they are innovators.

David Guimaraens
   (read a recent article of mine of port production if you wish to learn more about the Douro region:

   Even though Fonseca Guimaraens has been in continuous operation since 1822, 6th generation family winemaker David has launched into the unknown not just with organic principles, but also through technology. Fonseca recently showcased their newest addition to the staff, a device of their own invention: a piston-paddle vat known as "Port-Toes". It has been created with the purpose of more efficient temperature control  during fermentation thus allowing for a gentler touch with greater results.

   And the results? As always my friends... in the glass.

Fonseca Porto Terra Prima n/v
  • visual:   clear; fully intense inky purple core with slight cherry rim, no bricking
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ to fully intense and developing aromas of ripe red cherries, succulent plums, blackberries, dark chocolate and warm earth
  • palate:  clean; sweet, fully intense (red and black cherry) acids, moderate+ (well integrated and soft) tannins, moderate+ body, moderate+ABV(20%), fully intense and youthful flavors relying heavily on fresh red berries and light floral notes to make a heavy impact. Moderate structure and very good to excellent balance with only medium length
  • conclusion:  the youth of the vines is apparent. Whilst there are rich flavors, they are somewhat monotonous, however the finesse of the structure leads me to believe that future vintages will rival some of the truly great ports of the world. Drink now, holds to 2017.
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   with wines of this sweetness, it's a bit of folly to pair with anything even close to the same sweetness. Consider a Savory dark chocolate torte with lemon whip cream and stewed plums

the "Port-Toes"
   And so a bit of a dichotomy; House Fonseca. Almost two centuries old, they utilize state of the art facilities and "ahead-of-the-curve" techniques in the vineyard to create purist flavors with sublime structure. I can only imagine that Manuel Pedro Guimaraens, the man who bought controlling interest in the  Fonseca & Monteiro Company in 1822 and started this port house which is all about family, is looking down and watching this new generation with pride.

                As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!   CHEERS~!!!

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