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Good Food Revolution: Episode 301 - Great Red Wines from a Man in Red Trousers? Revisiting Fita Preta
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Fitapreta is the culmination of a partnership between a young, dynamic Portuguese winemaker and a British-born viticulturist, dedicated to a new examination of terroir in the Alentejo. Winemaker António Maçanita returned home to his native Portugal after winemaking stints in Napa, Australia and France, most notably Château Lynch-Bages. David Booth, the viticulturist, was already well established in Portugal when they began work together in 2004.
Fitapreta operates on the intuition when it comes to their viticulture and winemaking. With this trust of the land and the natural growth process of the vineyard, they are able to make wines that are imbued with a singular sense of place. They operate on a strictly gravity-fed basis in the winery to avoid any harsh treatment of the must. All wines are spontaneously fermented with indigenous yeast. Small parcels of each vineyard are fermented separately to preserve distinct stylistic qualities. These are then blended to achieve a layered, complete picture of the terroir.
About António Maçanita: António Maçanita is one of the leading Portuguese winemakers of his generation, crafting wines which are constantly recognized in the most prestigious competitions and publications. Antonio is also a consultant winemaker for over 13 other wineries in Portugal through his consultancy company Wine ID. Dynamic and restless (as the critics describe him), he loves a good challenge and has developed several wine projects in unlikely regions, using previously unheard of grape varieties that have now become notable success stories.
Born in 1979, he got in contact with grapes at the tender age of 4, playing in the vineyards during harvest, drinking fresh juice from tanks and stepping on grapes at a cousin’s winery. Aged 18, Antonio’s life was more about “spear fishing and surf” than studying. He initially planned to study Marine Biology but a teacher convinced him to pick Agronomic Sciences, a more generic science degree that could be used as a basis for further studies. He applied for the course but somehow he got the codes wrong and ended in Agro-Industrial Engineering, that includes winemaking. So it was that a quirk of fate led Antonio down the path of winemaking.
At university his enthusiasm for vineyards was immediate, getting him involved with a plantation in the Azores, followed by working tours in Napa Valley first at Merryvale Vineyards (2001) and later at the Rudd Estate (2002). Having finished his degree, he worked at D’Arenberg, in Australia (2003) before deciding that her needed to move to the mecca of traditional winemaking, France. So he cut a deal with a French rugby club, playing for them and in return they would find him a placement at a local wine producer. While waiting for confirmation António completed a harvest in what was to become a reference wine producer in Portugal, Malhadinha Nova. The news that he had a job in France came through, and off he went to Château Lynch-Bages in Bordeaux (2003). In 2004, he returned to Portugal at the age of 24 and together with David Booth he started Fitapreta, that soon produced its first wine and, soon after that, its first trophy. Consultancy work followed and by the age of 25 he was consulting for 5 wineries.
About David Booth (1965-2012): Born in England, David was an army officer for seven years, reaching the rank of Captain of the Green Jackets. After, he studied Agriculture and Management at the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester, which led him to mine clearing in Mozambique and wildlife protection in Kenya. Afterwards, Booth studied viticulture at UC Davis and became a disciple of Richard Smart in Portugal.
He became a vineyard consultant to various wine producers such as: Lyma Mayer, Terras de Alter, Azamor, Vida Nova (Cliff Richards), Arrepiado Velho… to name just a few. In 2004 he founded with António the Fitapreta project, which he gave priority in a professional life already so full. David was 47 when he died of a heart attack.