Portugal Diaries Day 5: Moscatel de Setubal

On the road to Lisbon today, we stopped in Setubal to taste the most famous wine from that area: Muscatel de Setubal.
Our first visit was at the winery José Maria de Fonseca. The winery was established in 1834 after he learned wine techniques in France. He adopted many of the practices which are still commonly used in Setubal, such as trellising.

He was a great public relations person and singlehandedly made the Muscatel de Setubal world famous. He was also the first to introduce bottle

Fonseca Winery

Fonseca Winery

labeling in Portugal.

The winery has been family owned for 185 years and produces more than 16 million bottles and exports 70% of their production.

There are more than 560 different grape varieties in their vineyards with 200 native varieties, including the Moscatel of Alexandria and the Purple Moscatel.

The Moscatel de Setubal is aged in a warehouse called the Cathedral, dating from 1775. Fonseca ages some of their Moscatel for 10 to 20 years.

Our lunch was a buffet of cabbage soup, local charcuterie and cheeses and desserts. To accompany lunch, there were 5 wines:

  • DSF Verdelho 2017, crisp acidity, deep yellow color
  • Hexagon Branco 2014, a blend of 4 grapes, mostly Alvarinho and Verdelho, aged in wood
  • José de Sousa 2016 from Alentejo, a blend of Grand Noir, Trincadeira and Aragonez
  • Hexagon Red 2014, a blend of 6 grapes including Touriga Nacional and Tannat
  • Alambre 20 year old Moscatel de Setubal.

Our 2nd stop was at Quinta de Piloto, established in 1940 by Umberto Cardozo whom we met.

The winery produces more than 2 million bottles annually and owns 200 hectares of vineyards.

Our tasting, which included more charcuterie and cheese, featured 8 wines:

  • Piloto Coleccion 2017, Syria grape, light green color, apple blossom aroma, rich, unctuous, good acidity
  • Purple Moscatel 2018, pale yellow green hue, very aromatic with strong acidity (the Purple Moscatel was a natural mutation of the grape brought down from Northern Portugal)
  • Palmela 2018, a blend of Arinto and Antão Vaz, deep yellow, ripe white fruit aromas, hint of banana, 10 months in oak
  • Touriga Nacional 2017, beautiful medium ruby red color, aromas of blackberries and eucalyptus
  • Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, classic Cab aroma, touch of bell pepper, mint, 1 year in barrel
  • Reserva Castelão 2015, 16 months in barrel, forest floor, blackberries, smoky aromas, very tannic
  • Moscatel de Setubal, 2012, deep amber color,orange peel aroma and taste, candied fruit, caramel, wonderful acidity, delicious
  • Purple Muscatel, intriguing aromas of blackberries, honey, figs, deep amber color, less acidity than the white Muscatel.

Then it was on our way to our boutique hotel in the heart of Old Town Lisbon.

Author Vin Marottoli

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