The SOMM Journal

October / November 2016

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Page 65 of 132

{ }  65 TRADITION AND INNOVATION MELD FOR José de Sousa ^ ^ Fermenting in amphorae debuted centuries ago, as they were really one of the only options for a fermentation vessel in regions lacking forests. The employment of clay pots in the present day is a marked choice. Casa Agricola José de Sousa Rosado Fernandes, located in the Alentejo region of Portugal, currently employs 114 clay amphorae in its wine production. "The Iberian Peninsula clay pot tradition comes from Roman times, so it's approximately 2000 years old," explains Senior Winemaker Domingos Soares Franco. José Maria de Fonseca, José de Sousa's parent company, was established in 1834 on the Península de Setúbal and is now in its sixth generation of family production. It purchased the venerable José de Sousa estate in 1986, giving the Soares Franco family the long-awaited chance to produce Alentejo wines using traditional winemak- ing methods. Domingos Soares Franco graduated from the U.C. Davis (the first Portuguese winemaker to do so) and, in keeping with family values, fuses almost 200 years of tra- ditional practices with contemporary mod- ernization to make distinctive Portuguese wines. He is in charge of all production including viticulture. "It all started back in 1986, when we bought the winery down south," says Franco. "This vintage will be my 30th vintage with clay pots, so I can say that I have some experience." A handful of well-known producers uti - lize amphorae, but Franco says, "We have 114, and as far as clay pots are concerned, we are probably one of the largest wineries in the world." While many of these produc - ers refrain from using sulfur dioxide, Franco explains, "I use SO 2 because my amphorae are more than 100 years old, and I can no longer clean them like [newer ones]. I have just come from Georgia, where they call their clay vases kveveries, and there are some similarities with amphorae. They don't use sulfur because of the way they treat the inside and outside of the kvevery. Also, they don't use natural yeast culture, and even during fermentation there are some differences." Some people mistakenly confuse con - crete eggs with amphorae. Clay pots are more porous and impart different charac- teristics to wine. "From my experience, the clay gives spiciness, earthiness and evolution (right before oxidation is achieved). Please don't confuse these wines with 'orange wines.' The flavor is never cleaner (but dif - ferent from stainless steel), and the wines are usually thinner (with less texture) than in stainless steel," illuminates Franco. The 72 hectares of José de Sousa vineyards from the Herdade do Monte da Ribeira lie near the central town of Reguengos de Monsaraz, one of eight sub-regions of Alentejo. Alentejo itself is Portugal's larg - est wine-producing region in geographical size, making up 30 percent of the country's landmass, and it is now speckled with many cork forests. The hot growing season neces- sitates irrigation—José de Sousa actually Domingos Soares Franco, Senior Winemaker, and Paulo Amaral, Resident Winemaker, at José de Sousa.

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