I heard the shocking and sad news of David Booth's death on Tuesday evening. You only had to meet him once, as I did last year, to be left in no doubt as to his passion for making great wine from great vineyards in Portugal, and his deep enthusiasm for life.
In 2004, he founded Fitapreta with winemaker António Maçanita although he was also a viticultural consultant to several other well-known producers in Portugal. I have been in touch with him several times over the past year while working on my top 50 Portuguese wine selection and wish now even more than ever that I had been able to take up his invitation to meet in Lisbon at the end of last year. When I asked him how his very good Palpite white wine aged, he hastened to send me a bottle of each of the three vintages so far produced.
The following email from the Fita Preta team gives some background to David and what he was like to work with:
Founding partner of Fitapreta, David Booth was one of the mentors behind the whole project.
When they started Fitapreta they often said between them 'An English viticulture and a kid as winemaker, this can only go wrong'. But it didn't.
This unlikely union of: country side with city scene, youth with wisdom, arrogance with humility, yin with yang allowed Fitapreta to be at the same time Sexy and Pink, but also to have a sense of place, to be local varietals, but to be also a mix of Portuguese and foreign varietals, to be leading the recovery of a varietal from extinction… finally to be itself.
They challenged the industry's standards with no vineyards; no winery and no capital, only with know-how, plenty of will and work, to start a project of quality and consistency. With a mentality positioned, as much in the past and origins, as in the future and in what is still to be done.
Born in England, army officer for seven years, reaching the rank of Captain in the Green Jackets, he then studied Agriculture and Management at the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester, did Mine-clearing in Mozambique, wildlife protection in Kenya. Afterwards, he studied viticulture at UC Davis, and became a disciple of Richard Smart in Portugal, where he introduced new trellising systems, and brought a profound knowledge in viticulture that enabled him to transmit complicated concepts on a very simple way.
He was a vineyard consultant to various wine making projects such as: Lyma Mayer, Terras de Alter, Azamor, Vida Nova (Cliff Richard), Arrepiado Velho… to name just a few. As guest speaker he lectured to the MBA course at his old school the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester.
In 2004 he founded with António the Fitapreta project, which he gave priority in a professional life already so full.
For us friends and companions of battle we miss his constant and infectious smile, his eternal optimism, his will to help, his capacity to listen and his pleasure for the simple things in life: fresh air, nature, time with his children, time with people, pure life.
With the certainty that we shall always honor him, and remember him even more. Working even harder, but with the same free spirit and freshness that he has always transmitted.
The funeral service, for friends and family, will be held at St Andrew's church, Rua da Arriaga, Lisbon, at 2 pm on 20 April.