The Torta de Azeitão is pure magic – especially with a glass of Moscatel de Setúbal accompanying. Or the Queijo de Azeitão – a cheese made from sheep’s milk and cardoon thistle that distinguishes it from the more traditional animal rennet.
Besides these contributions to the national gourmet treasury, the sleepy little village of Azeitão also houses the wine producers of Jose Maria da Fonseca and Bacalhôa Vinhos. For many of us Fonseca, not to be mistaken with the Port producer in the Douro Valley, has a certain place in our wine hearts. Either for the fact that their world famous Periquita bottle was our first Portuguese red wine to discover – and to be amazed over considering the QPR, the availability and its greatness as a sauce or stew based wine.
But how many knew that Periquita’s been around since 1850 and that it is more or less Portugal’s first more commercial bottling? Made from the Castelão grape, an indigenous variety that mostly are to be found in the southern of Portugal. Castelão thrives in the sun drenched maritime climate in the appellation of Terras do Sado where Fonseca is situated and the Periquita’s fame has resulted in the fact that Castelão also goes under the wine label’s name.
But when Periquita of today is a more accessible wine for immediate consumption the opposite was a fact with older bottlings. Today a Periquita is easy drinking, oak chipsed and screw capsuled. Some decades ago it was a wine spending quite some time on the large old oak casks, longer fermentation and had lower yields and ageability. Although being a wine romantic and feeling a bit nostalgia when tasting the old bottlings its no sensation the old style is gone and replaced with a more commercial one.
Take the 1963 Periquita as an example – opened last Saturday. How many ordinary table wines do you know of having the capability of lasting almost 47 years without cracking up in pieces? Opened and decanted for sediment reasons. Lovely ruby colour with clear brownish brim. At first a bit smelly but hey; it’s been inside the bottle four decades! Then the explosion starts! Strawberries like in an old Burgundy, old cellar floor, tar, licorice, rowan berries and fresh tomatoes fills the glass. Sure, there’s a touch of the oak casks which the tobacco and figs reveal but it is never disturbing or heading the wine to the graveyard.
Fine mouthfeel with sweet mature fruit, a tarry feeling and an acidity that just shows a touch of volatility. Not disturbing at all. Tannins a bit rustic but that goes well with the wine in general. The figs, tomatoes, strawberries, wet earth and oak are fascinating and I actually have problems understanding this is a Periquita. From 1963! It’s not long in its aftertaste but refreshing and doesn’t fall in the old wines section’s trap with heavy features and horrible volatile acidity activating the ulcer.
N.B.1. Wine friends, don’t try this at home. What I mean is simply – you can’t cellar a modern day Periquita more than a couple of years. It just hasn’t got the stuffing. I’ve had the 1990 at 12 years age but that was barely holding together. Stick with the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
N.B. 2. But I want to try an old Periquita. Well, that’s another thing! Check out Garrafeira Nacional in Lisboa. They retail old Periquita’s – older than the one we had!
N.B. 3. Do go to Azeitão if you’re in the Lisboa area. It’s a 40 minutes trip from the capital and I promise, the torta egg rolls are worth more than that! And do arrange a visit at the Fonseca property – maybe not for the Periquita but to see one of the most impressive cellars in the world – I’m talking of the Moscatel de Setúbal’s of Fonseca. Torna Viagem’s and casks from 1900….it’s quite cool.
N.B. 4. When in Azeitão don’t forget Bacalhôa Vinhos – situated in the outskirts of the village it is the total contrast to the old firm of Fonseca.
N.B. 4. What the heck. Just visit Portugal!
(1963 Periquita, Jose Maria da Fonseca, Terras do Sado, 88 points)