José Maria da Fonseca, Periquita 2004 Terras do Sado

17 Oct 2006 by JR

find this wine - from £4.99, $7.99 and 10.69 Swiss francs

I could swear this classic Portuguese red has actually gone down in price in the many years I have enjoyed it. It has been made since 1850 on the José Maria da Fonseca estate on the sandy soils of the Setubal peninsula south east of Lisbon and it's difficult to think of any other wine with such a history, such distinctively local character and such a low price. It was Jose Maria da Fonseca who introduced the principal grape in this blend, Castelão, into the region which, as Richard Mayson points out in his The Wines and Vineyards of Portugal, seems to be a natural home for the variety even though it is so widely planted throughout southern Portugal that it is Portugal's most planted grape variety.

As well as 70 per cent Castelão, the wine nowadays is made up of about 20 per cent Trincadeira and 10 per cent Tempranillo, known as Aragónez here. At one point Periquita was used a synonym for Castelão which caused a bit of confusion but the Portuguese have determinedly taken a very new, very severe broom to their grape variety names so that they have all been tidied up. (Castelão used also to be called Castelão Frances for instance and Trincadeira was Trincadeira Preta but such suffices have been officially abandoned.)

But most importantly this wine is a joy to drunk. Thanks to those sandy soils, it is gently fruity and easy to enjoy at a wide range of temperatures but it is also full of zap, savour and personality and on past form will not lose its fruit nearly as fast as moist £4.99 bottles. I would suggest you enjoy this vintage, matured for five months in new and used oak, before the end of 2007 however just to be on the safe side. Its alcohol level of 13.4 per cent is relatively modest by contemporary standards. This is a thoroughly useful, admirable wine.

(I see that I recommended the 1995 Classico version as a 10 year-old wine of the week - which shows just how well the Classico version lasts.)

It's quite widely available internationally. Winesearcher lists many retailers in the US, one each in Sweden, Switzerland and Canada - but British wine lovers should also know that it's available at 186 Waitrose stores and also from waitrose.com at a (mixed) case price which works out at £4.74 a bottle.

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Tags:  portugal
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