Casa Museu José Maria da Fonseca

José Maria da Fonseca Wine Cellars


Useful Information

Location: At Vila Nogueira de Azeitão, signposted.
Open: All year daily 10-19.
[2020]
Fee: Adults EUR 3.
[2020]
Classification: SubterraneaCellar
Light: electric.
Dimension:
Guided tours: V=42,000/a[2019]
Photography: allowed
Accessibility:
Bibliography:
Address: José Maria Da Fonseca Wines House Museum, R. José Augusto Coelho nº11/13, 2925-542 Vila Nogueira de Azeitão, Tel: +351-212-198-940. E-mail: E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1834 founded by José Maria da Fonseca.

Description

The winery José Maria da Fonseca is named after the founder. He founded it in 1834, which makes it the oldest table wine company in Portugal, and it is now in its 7th generation. One of the reason it is so successful are obviously three different cellars. The tour starts and ends at the Manor House, the Casa Museu José Maria da Fonseca, built in the nineteenth century, the house was restored in 1923 by the Swiss architect, Ernesto Korrodi. This was the home of the family for more than a century, when they finally moved out in the 1970s. Since then it is the Visitor Center of the winery and contains the interesting museum.

José Maria da Fonseca (1804-1884) was the son of a rich tobacco merchant. He financed the winery for his son, obviously it was his inheritance. But José Maria was very good in growing wines and made numerous innovations, which is the reason his winery flourished. In 1857 he was awarded by the Portuguese King Pedro V. (1837-1861). He produced Moscatel de Setúbal, was the first who bottled his wine instead of selling the barrels, introduced new wine growing methods, for example increased the distance between grapes. He purchased a wineyard named Periquita, and the grapes he grew there became quite popular and was named Periquita after his wineyard. But the following generations were also innovative. The fifth generation created the first Portuguese rosé wine in 1937 and in 1944 the popular Lancer rosé. In 1945 they produced the first Portuguese white wine.

The tour offers many insights, some legends and also some history. Somewhere between history and legend is the story of Torna Viagem. In the early days of the winery Porugal still had colonies, and the moscatel grape has high sugar levels, which makes it ideal for refining into sweet, fortified wines, and fortified wines are better able to survive long sea journeys. So José Maria da Fonseca sent his moscatel wines to Brazil, but unfortunately not all were sold. So some barrels were returned, making the long trip across the Atlantic ocean twice. When it came back, José Maria da Fonseca guessed it would have deteriorated by constantly changing temperatures and the pounding motion of the ocean. But to everyones amazement the wine had decidedly improved, the double sea voyage had accelerated the maturing process. José Maria da Fonseca successfully marketed the wine as Torna Viagem​(return journey). In 2000 the family was curious if this was just a legend, and so they put six 600 liter barrels of 1984 moscatel on a ship owned by the Portuguese navy. When it came back from Brazil, the same thing had happened. Unfortunately this wine is not for sale. if it was it would probably be extremely expensive. However, the "regular" moscatel is definitely on sale.

The winery has actually three different cellars. Adega da Mata and Adega dos Teares Novos, where wines such as Periquita mature, and Adega dos Teares Velhos, where the oldest Setúbal Muscatels rest. At the end of the last cellar is a locked gate, behind it the company's most valuable wines. It is called the cathedral of muscatel, some of the wines are more than 100 years old.

Like always with wine cellar tours, at the end you get some wines to test in the shop, and of course buy some more when you are drunken enough. We recommend public transport, one of the numerous day tours or even better, stay overnight in one of the beautiful hotels of the small town.