Wednesday, June 06, 2018

MENU's Iberian Exploit 7. A visit to the Jose de Sousa Winery in Reguengos de Monsaraz, Alentejo

The journey continues South and East, to Alentejo and then across the border into Spain. Europe had had a really appalling Spring this year and it looks like the bad weather is continuing into their summer as well
This was our view as we left Lisbon and drove South to meet a winemaker on his farm in Alentejo. The windscreen wipers just could not keep up with the downpour and we were wishing we could send some south to the Cape. Luckily the roads were empty as it was a Saturday
We arrived mid morning in the village of Reguengos de Monsaraz to discover that Paulo Amaral, our winemaker friend at the JM da Fonseca property Adega José de Sousa Rosado, was actually in Lisbon on business. We met him at a tasting at Muratie in Stellenbosch a couple of weeks before we left for Portugal. Sadly, he couldn't meet us at the Adega, but asked his colleague, Miguel Mendes, to look after us
It is a very quaint old farm and they do have a tasting room
Jose Maria da Fonseca was founded in 1834 by the family, six generations ago
Some of their best customers from Germany, Bruno Hamm of distributor Weinkontor Freund GmbH and his partner, were already midway through a tasting, so we joined them
We tasted the Puro Talha, a pale salmon pink. Made in huge ceramic amphorae, called Talhas, they own 114, some of which are still in use. Very perfumed fruits, silky, crisp, more like a sherry than other Alentejo wines we have tasted with white plums and nuts
Then the 2016 José de Sousa Vinho regional, a heady red wine full of incense, vanilla and raspberries with soft then fresh fruit chalky chewy tannins, ending with rhubarb and sour cherry. Followed by the José de Sousa Mayor, incense wood, sweet cherries, perfume and fresh fruit acidity and mouth puckering tannins, a long finish with salty licorice. The 2016 Red Purho Talha vin Rouge had a rich red fruit nose with some sweetness, cherries, raspberries, soft tannins and a long end. A food wine. Miguel Mendes spoke very good English and German and was able to give us lots of information about the wines
These are the wines we tasted. The José de Sousa 2014 was the wine that impressed us the most with intense fruit, herbal greenness, with cranberry, blackberry and black cherry and that was just on the nose. A fully integrated palate of dark berries, lots of chalky tannins (they love them!) and a long, long finish. The quality grows and stays. 18/20
A Nineteenth Century pot still and other antique equipment,
awards and other decor in the tasting room
Old and new wine barrels in the cellar. The old ones are museum pieces and are no longer suitable for use
Many young South African winemakers are using amphorae as fermentation vessels. Adega José de Sousa has been fermenting in amphorae (ceramic Talhas) for more than 200 years. Most of these in current use are well over 100 years old. They are hand made and hold between 800 and 1600 litres each. To quote from their web site: “At the José de Sousa winery, the winemaking technique with talhas is still being used in a very similar way as it was 2000 years ago. In this wine, a small part is made according to this Roman process, the red grapes are previously trodden on foot and destemmed by hand in a table called “table of ripanço”. Afterwards, a small part of the must, skins and 30% stems are fermented in talhas, and another part in lagares (shallow open wine tanks, kuipe). The remainder of the brand is fermented in stainless steel tanks. The use of talhas gives spices and a third dimension to wine. After fermentation, this wine has a skin maceration of 4 weeks, followed by 9 months of stage in French and American oak casks”
A broken one allows one to see inside
Comparison with the people gives a relative idea of the size
An old sorting table in one of the Lagares or open kuipe, where they tread the grapes and also use these for fermentation
The wine is topped with olive oil
Maker's mark
An ancient standing stone known as a “Menhir” dating from the Paleolithic period was found in the vineyard at the Herdade do Monte da Ribeira, also in Reguengos de Monsaraz. This vineyard also has a stone circle which was found and preserved by the company
An old basket press standing in another Lagare
Making some purchases in the shop
Branding irons and a skottel
It was definitely time for lunch and we went back into the small town of Reguengos. This is the local church, Igreja Matriz de Santo António, designed by the architect António Dias da Silva, who also designed the Campo Pequeno Bullring in Lisbon. It was opened in 1912. A fine specimen of Portuguese regional religious architecture
... in the town square
We had been recommended to go to the restaurant shown on this car
It was down a side street about 200 metres away
Spring was showing her lovely face with wisteria blossoming
The almost anonymous entrance to the restaurant El Plano B. They couldn't tell us why it is called Plan B or what Plan A was, but the winemakers recommended it and it was good. It's a popular place in the village
It is a bit café like inside, with rather austere decor
Not yet very busy, they do eat later in the day
A good way to start a Sunday lunch. Olives and a jug of Verdelho. We ordered a jug of this local Alentejo white, the house wine; refreshing and grapey, it goes down a treat with food and came with bread, good fruity olive oil and local olives, which were quite hard and under developed for our palates, but that is how they prefer them
A huge platter, delicious and very filling. We couldn't finish it; traditional Alentejo Migas (translation is crumbs), which is made from soaked day old bread, mixed with olive oil and garlic and wild asparagus (just in season). It's rather bland, doughy and stodgy, a bit like a savoury summer pudding, and we picked out as much of the beautiful asparagus as we could. The dish was surrounded by lots of seared and beautifully seasoned pieces of Grelhados de Porco Iberico (Grilled Iberian Pork). The flavour was lovely
Our great waiter was trying to persuade us to try the dessert which was Sericaia, another traditional dish. But we had eaten too well on the large main course. On looking up the recipe, perhaps we should have tasted it, as it sounds rather like the middle of a Melktert! Eggs, sugar, milk and cinnamon are the main ingredients. Could we be wrong about the origins of Melktert?
This was a bridge too far - so we paid the bill and on to Seville

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