Port enthusiasts everywhere know Fonseca for its extensive range of wines and quality of their brands.
The roots of Fonseca date back to late 1700’s, in a company known as Fonseca and Monteiro, located in the city of Oporto, Portugal on the Atlantic Coast some 300 km. north of Lisbon, the capital. The Fonseca family was of Brazilian origin, and traded in wine, olive oil, and garment with Brazil.
The company imported sugar, hemp, and other primary materials from Brazil, which was at the time a colony of Portugal.
The official foundation of Fonseca Guimaraens starts in 1822 when Manuel Pedro Guimaraens bought Fonseca, Monteiro and Co., but in the sale agreement Mr. Fonseca stipulates that his name be kept in the name of the company in perpetuity.
This clause has been respected by the descendants of Guimaraens ever since.
Manoel Pedro Guimaraens was an ardent liberal and his political public musings forced him to flee Portugal in 1834 hidden in an empty port barrel to London England.
The head office of the venerable company remained in London for over a century. Here Mr. Guimaraens built a reputation for vintage ports and increased sales to unprecedented levels in the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile Quintas and vineyards were acquired. The Quintas of Fonseca are: Quinta do Cruzeiro, Quinta de Santo Antonio, Quinta do Panascal. (A Quinta is a wine farm or estate in the Douro Valley). The company is one of the few producing vintage ports exclusively from its own vineyards.
Fonseca is particularly well known for its vintage ports, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), and tawnies.
Declaration of vintage in the Douro Valley is a complicated process and starts with the executive of the winery deciding that the quality warrants the vintage qualification. Only two per cent of all port wines produced are granted this attribute.
A vintage port is declared about three times in a decade. A “declaration” takes place when the producer believes that he has an outstanding wine. Nature plays a major role ion this decision. A cold wet winter is required, followed dry a warm dry spring and an intensely hot summer. Often it will not rain significantly from May through to September. Many of the greatest Vintage ports have been produced in years when there have been a few days of rainfall in late August or early September. This is very welcome, as it allows the grapes to swell slightly, the skins soften and the natural sugar levels rise. The grapes will then be in perfect condition for harvesting. Dry weather during the harvest is not only important but crucial to produce an excellent wine.
With ideal weather conditions and the most careful wine making, great ports can be made from the finest vineyards. The young port is left to age in wood. During this time it will be tasted so as to judge its true worth. If, after some 16 months, the wine lives up to its early promise, the producer will submit the wine to the Port Wine Institute for approval as Vintage Port. Here it must be tasted and approved by a panel of experts. The producer will then announce to the Wine Trade that he is ‘Declaring’ the vintage. A ‘Declaration’ will normally be made by most producers and/or shippers.. However this is not always the case, and sometimes a few producers will decide to declare while most others will not. This only adds to the interest of great Vintage Port. For years after, these wines can be tasted and the wisdom of the original decision debated around countless dining room tables as the port itself is savoured.
Vintage Port will be bottled, without any fining or filtration (one of the very few wines in the world not to undergo any treatment whatsoever prior to bottling) between July of the second year after the harvest and up to 30th June of its third year.
Guimaraens Vintage Porto
In the early 1950s, the rising demand for vintage Ports led Fonseca Guimaraens to create a second vintage Guimaraens label in “non-classic,’ or undeclared, years.
Guimaraens Vintage Porto is produced from the same three Fonseca quintas in the Cima Corgo which provide the backbone of Fonseca’s vintage Ports in declared years: Quinta de Santo Antonio and Quinta do Cruzeiro, both along the Pinhao River to the north of the Douro River; and Quinta do Panascal, along the Tavora River to the south. All three properties are A-rated, and were purchased by the firm in the 1970s; the former two had been under contract to Fonseca Guimaraens since the early 1900s. Because they are produced from wines from the same sources as the classic Fonseca Vintage Ports, Guimaraens Vintage Ports consistently show the classic Fonseca style.
While somewhat earlier maturing than Fonseca Vintage Ports, the fundamental difference between these and Guimaraens Vintage Ports lies in the latter’s “upbringing”. These are aged in Fonseca’s lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia and are only released for sale upon reaching maturity, which may be a decade or more after the vintage date. There is a considerably smaller blend of Guimaraens Vintage produced than of Fonseca Vintage Porto, and these non-classic wines, for their quality and rarity offer an exceptional value.
True to the Fonseca style, Guimaraens Vintage Ports are intensely rich and concentrated, with a voluptuous femininity and sublime, velvety texture.
Beautifully structured and perfectly balanced, they show the superb marriage of power and breed for which the house of Fonseca Guimaraens is renowned. As all vintage Ports, they will continue to mature in bottle and throw a crust, requiring a careful decanting prior to serving.
Fonseca Vintage Port
Vintage Port is the jewel of every shippers portfolio, the most prized of all Port wines. It is generally accepted that the first vintage Port was produced in the late 1700s; the first generally declared vintage was that of 1775. The first Fonseca Vintage Porto was produced in 1847, and is considered today to be one of the classic vintage Ports of the nineteenth century.
The backbone of Fonseca Vintage Ports are the wines drawn primarily from Fonseca’s three quintas, all located in the Cima Corgo (the portion of Douro Valley most cherished and valued by port wine producers): two had been under contract to Fonseca Guimaraens since the early 1900s. The finest grapes from these quinta are blended with wines from other quinta long under contract to Fonseca to produce its classic vintage Ports.
The grapes are still trodden by foot in the stone ‘lagares’ of Cruzeiro, an extremely physically demanding and labor-intensive process but one for which no substitute has yet been found which will extract the maximum color, tannin and richness from the fruit. This point is of utmost importance, for the process of fortification entails the dilution of the wine by twenty percent of its volume with a colorless, odorless brandy. The concentration and quality of the base wines must therefore be absolutely perfect.
Fonseca Vintage Ports are renowned for their great richness and voluptuousness, and, while powerful and mouth filling, for their exquisite structure and femininity. In the context of each vintage, they combine the tannic dimension and great depth, which give great port its longevity with the breed, complexity and perfect balance that are appreciated all over the world by aficionados of this truly unique wine.