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The amphoras of Mr Joseph

Text João Pedro de Carvalho

The fascination with these wines comes from my times as a child, I remember the conversations at the dinner table about the wines, one of those names was a Tinto Velho, so many times present in my family Christmas table. This wine came from the Casa Agricola José de Sousa Rosado Fernandes (Reguengos de Monsaraz), where prestige and history combine with traditional techniques of winemaking like stone lagares, large oak vats and traditional clay amphoras.


Engraved date in hogshead – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

It’s in those imposing amphoras that lies all the magic and charm of these wines, on their porous walls which that transmit years of knowledge to all the wines that pass by. Meanwhile, a whole art of manufacturing,that will hardly come back, was forgotten, therefore all that’s left is to venerate and admire all the heritage that lies in the Adega dos Potes and taste the wines that are created there. The old labels tell us that wine has been made over there since at least 1878, the records are scarce and only the glory of wines that survived in time can tell us the history of such a glorious house, like the epic Tinto Velho 1961 or the Tinto Velho 1940, which is one of the most emblematic in the vinous history of Portugal.


Old Vineyard of Herdade do Monte da Ribeira – Photo Provided by José Maria da Fonseca | All Rights Reserved

Everything starts in the Herdade do Monte da Ribeira, where lie the 72 hectares of vineyard, in granite soils, which was planted over the years, having José de Sousa himself even planted some of them in the early 50’s. Varieties such as Trincadeira, Aragonez, Grand Noir…all are part of the José de Sousa’s final wine blend.
The famous producer Jose Maria da Fonseca (Azeitão) began bottling the wines of the Casa Agricola José de Sousa Rosado Fernandes in 1980 and after the acquisition in 1986 brought the dream of being able to produce wine in Alentejo. It was around that time that a lot of bottles of Tinto Velho 1940 would be discovered under a pile of sacks of coal, a wine of which quality and longevity would serve as a goal to achieve in the development of the “new” José de Sousa wines.


Pots cellar – Photo Provided by José Maria da Fonseca | All Rights Reserved

In the year 1990 the brand took a new direction, splitted into two and on one hand stood with a simple wine José de Sousa but on the other hand, with a pure breed of Alentejo appears the brand José de Sousa Mayor (Garrafeira). The first one is the continuity with touches of a new oenology, more appealing and ready to please a larger audience, the Mayor is an attempt to achieve the greatness from the historic José de Sousa wines, more recently as a new top appears the J de José de Sousa. The three have at heart the goodness of the amphora from the clay of the Alentejo, of tradition and of the times that will hardly return.


José de Sousa – Photo Provided by José Maria da Fonseca | All Rights Reserved

José de Sousa 2011
“Zé” changed his shirt (label), adapted himself to modern times and came to dwell in the city. Even though this Alentejo yolk has adapted to these times he’s still loyal to his origins. I always picture him with a bag of dried figs, an ounce of rolling tobacco in his pocket and boots marked by the red mud from the farm where he was born in Reguengos de Monsaraz. José or “Ze” is a cool guy, a good friend and always ready for a table full of savories. And no matter how many years pass him by, how many shirts he changes, he won’t turn his back on his origins or lose that strong accent. After all, these are the friends we like to have as table companions, never leaving us be evil visas and providing us with good moments. The last time we met, in 2011, he told me about the Grand Noir, Trincadeira and the Aragonez, a good conversation that lasted the entire meal. If you ever find him do not hesitate to have a quick chat with him…

José de Sousa Mayor 2011
A great wine from Alentejo, very well adapted to modern times. A more opulent red, full of genius and readier to drink, with more fat and not being so tense or rigid as I recall from the 1994 or 1997 harvest. It still is, however, a nice red from Alentejo, where predominates the Grand Noir variety, which combines fruit, dark and greedy with tobacco leaf, coffee, spices (clove), clay, all wrapped up in a barrel that not disturb the harmony from the set. Still young with everything to develop, fruity and with some tannins in the background, shows elegance, suitability for extended guard, or to drink now with a good Lamb Stew.

J de José de Sousa 2011
One of the great wines from the Alentejo, made from Grand Noir with Touriga Nacional and Touriga Francesa. Very charming and full of finesse, shows from the beginning his entire class with a set of extremely high quality. The perfect symbiosis between lagares /amphoras/wood casks, which results in a remarkable wine, the freshness of fleshy fruit wrapped in a good structure that ensures longevity. All with great complexity, chocolate, balsamic, floral, very fresh fruit and well delineated as a whole showing much class and elegance. Through the bitterness and the very subtile fresh clay, involves the senses with pleasure, mouth with firm structure, broad and velvety, deep in a long after taste with a lot of spices. Memorable with some braised partridges.


José de Sousa Rosado Fernandes 1940 – Photo Provided by José Maria da Fonseca | All Rights Reserved

José de Sousa Rosado Fernandes 1940
With 74 years of life this wine is a true icon of the Portugal’s oenology, at all levels and memorable showing an enviable health, with a great freshness that sustains the whole set. Dark and unctuous, with a brownish lip to show that time has already passed him by, complex with a luxurious tertiary set of aromas, notes of plum and some jam, milk chocolate, flowers, notes of clay. Suddenly the time stops and we are lost in the middle of the glass, sniffing around all the aromas. Amazing.

Tel.: (+351) 212 197 500

About João Pedro Carvalho
Wine Writer Blend | All About Wine

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