Fonseca was founded in 1822 by Manuel Pedro Guimaraens, and though today the firm is owned by Fladgate, it is still run by a descendant of the founder, David Guimaraens. According to Robert M. Parker Jr., Fonseca matures slightly more rapidly than other Vintage Ports and Parker maintains that Fonseca has a unique character. “This is always the most flamboyant, exuberant, and exotic of Vintage Port, with a character that is completely different from that of its peers,” Parker says. With about 150 acres of vineyards planted in traditional Port grapes, including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cao and other, Fonseca produces 8,000-14,000 cases of Vintage Port a year. It also produces a Tawny, a white Port and non-vintage Ports.
Douro is Portugal’s most prestigious appellation, thanks to the fact that the country’s famous Port wines have always come from the Douro. Douro, the appellation, is named for the Douro River which runs through northern Portugal. The region is mountainous and rocky, with very poor soil and harsh weather conditions because of proximity to the Atlantic. Nevertheless, vineyards have always existed there on terraced parcels of land surrounded by walls to protect the vines from wind. Most of the famous Port makers have quintas, or estates, in this region. In recent decades the Douro has developed a reputation for table wines as well as Ports, and today there are two sub-appellations within the Douro, one for table wines and one for Port. Numerous grapes are allowed within the Douro, but the main red grapes grown are Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo.) The main white grapes are Esgana Cao, Folgosado and Verdelho. Besides the historic connection to Port wines – which were highly coveted in England and other parts of Europe as early as the 17th century – the region is also home to Portugal’s best table wines, including Barca Velha.