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An Afternoon in Camarate With Domingos Soares Franco

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Text José Silva

Domingos Soares Franco doesn’t need any introduction in the wine world. He belongs in the family that owns the firm José Maria da Fonseca, where he is also the master winemaker, but he is above all a wine lover and an investigator, someone discontented, always trying to do better and to do different. His work is for sure one of the main reasons of the success of one of the biggest Portuguese wine producers.

But he is also a funny person that loves being around a lot of people, and appreciates the good things in life. Every year, in June, Domingos Soares Franco invites a small group of wine writers who are also his friends, for a simple lunch at his house in Camarate, where the first rule is that everybody brings a bottle of wine, to which Domingos Soares Franco will add half a dozen other bottles of the house. Second rule is that there are no rules: we taste the wines (that in the meantime have been placed in champagne frapés with ice, so that they are at the right temperature), we exchange opinions, we draw comparisons, we remember other tastings, other wines, other styles.


Wines © Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

With all the guests present, plus Domingo’s wife and son, and his nephew António, we seat at the table, for a simple but complete meal. We had tasted before some dry fruit, some toasts, bread and a piece of Azeitão cheese, cured, dry, that Domingo’s wife didn’t want him to put on the table, due to its bad look!

But Domingos Soares Franco, knowing both the product and his guests, didn’t hesitate putting it on the table. And the cheese disappeared in an instant! Sparkling wines from Terras do Demo, Malvasia Fina and Touriga Nacional, had already been tasted, as well as Alvarinho Nostalgia 2013 and II Terroirs of the same year, and some white from Dão Quinta dos Carvalhais, and they all were very well, plain of vivacity and freshness, and they quickly disappeared.

Then came the first surprise from Domingos Soares Franco, a comparison between two white wines of the house, having spent some years in the bottle, that’s how the winemaker wants them to be: Pasmados 2009, a great structure an complexity, beautiful acidity and the wood very well integrated, that was compared with its “grandparent” Pasmados…1963, something very serious, advanced, soft, dry, brilliant! Giving good indications of the possibility of these wines to age. Through the table had already passed Casal Santa Maria Pinot Noir 2011, Mapa 2010, Casa da Passarela O Enólogo 2010 and Bairrada’s Painel 2001, all of them in very good shape, for our great pleasure.


Batuta 05 | Pasmados – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Back to the lunch table, they served some big shrimps with mayonnaise, lettuce and asparagus, very tasty. And the wine tasting went on, now with the company of very good food. There was even Ribeira del Duero 2003, Mythos 2005 and Batuta 2005, still at a very good level, with that touch of the reds with some years and still going up. Shrimps were followed by a dish with great tradition in the house, a juicy pea soup, with smoked sausage and poached eggs, that we repeated as much as we could bear, always in the company of those fantastic wines.

Although all of them had been already tasted, at this point of the meal, Romeira 1987, Bairrada Vinus Vitae 1987 and Quinta das Cerejeiras 1995 came back, healthy, well-balanced, elegant. Then came the second surprise from Domingos Soares Franco a red from Colares, 1963, a classic, that elegance on the nose, smooth on the mouth, a great pleasure till the last drop.

Then a relic of the Portuguese wines, José de Sousa Rosado Fernandes 1940, an extraordinary wine, that Domingos Soares Franco had the audacity to open two bottles of! Hard to describe, absolutely amazing! I haven’t tried it for several years now, my God, how it is still exuberant and perfect!


Trilogia – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

When dessert arrived, they were placed on the balcony – with the true Azeitão tart as a must – fortified wines appeared, and in Azeitão we have muscat wines. Also a vintage Port from Ramos Pinto. Through our glasses passed Alambre 20 Years (see here a Blend post about this wine), always safe, very pleasant, and a delicious Batardinho 30 Years, very elegant, an incredible acidity, fresh, smooth but with great structure, a great wine. And we even sang Happy Birthday to Domingo’s son.

But Domingos Soares Franco prepared a last surprise for the evening: a bottle of Trilogia, an exoteric wine, incredible, superb. A meditation wine! After this, we were done, shouting nasty words at Domingos and remembering the ugly duckling from the cartoons when he said: “It’s an injustice, it is!”

The friendly smile of Domingos Soares Franco went home with us, with pleasure.
See you next year Domingos in Camarate…

José Maria da Fonseca, S.A.
Quinta da Bassaqueira, Estrada Nacional 10
2925-542, Vila Nogueira de Azeitão, Setúbal, Portugal
Phone: 351 212 197 500

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