Fitapreta A Touriga Vai Nua and Silver Jews' Bright Flight
Fall is a bewitching season, Halloween aside. It has a way of making you feel cozy and revitalized all at once. Nature pulls out all the stops: neat-colored leaves swirl around in crisp breezes and there’s a palpable energy in the air. It’s also a time for sweaters, comforting stews and family - both blood and chosen. Silver Jews’ “Bright Flight” and Fitapreta’s A Touriga Vai Nua Portuguese red embody the vibes that sound and taste like fall.
Antonio Macanita is the young wunderkind winemaker whose first encounter with viticulture was stomping grapes and playing in vineyards at just four years old. Going into college, his main priorities were surfing and fishing but his passions quickly transferred to winemaking as part of his Agro-Industrial Engineering degree. He worked at wineries in California and Australia before focusing on traditional training in France which he completed at Chateau Lynch Bages in Bordeaux. He then made his way to Portugal at age 24 when he started Fitapreta with David Booth and since then has made award-winning wines while developing his own style and discovering the identity of Portuguese terroir.
He brings his old-school training and honors the traditional varietals of the region while taking a modern approach to his wines. The Touriga Vai Nua is made with 100% Touriga Nacional, one of Portugal’s primary red grapes, usually blended with other native varietals and aged in oak to produce big, muscular, rustic wines or for Port. With this particular bottling, Antonio makes a single varietal wine that’s fresh, aged just three months in stainless steel with no oak contact, and lighter in style. It’s unfiltered and unfined giving us a pure expression of this indigenous grape and the warm & sunny Alentejo region. It’s stripped down and raw with a big personality.
Another cowboy who shakes up a traditional genre is David Berman of Silver Jews. He started this band in 1989 in New York City with Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich. “Bright Flight” is their fourth studio album written almost entirely by David in the band’s new homebase of Nashville, released on the Drag City label. With this killer album, David merges his New York indie rock style with folky alt-Country for something that works in a major way.
“Bright Flight” opens with “Slow Education” showcasing David’s gravelly yet soothing voice complemented by the sweet harmonies of Silver Jews collaborator and David’s wife, Cassie Berman, as they sing about existential crisis. The next track “Room Games and Diamond Rain” is full of sweetness and sorrow about the denial of imperfect love with the most pleasant of guitar pickin’. Any angst or morbidness is tempered by David’s wordsmithery and the band’s serene musical stylings.
The wine also has a lot going on without being a sledgehammer of fruit and tannin. On the nose, it’s very fresh with scents of blackberry and blueberry, rose and asphalt after a rain with a savory pot roast kind of note. It’s very terroir-driven, like you’re walking through the vineyard smelling all these things. The palate hits you up front with acidity, then with lush ample fruit then finishes bitter, nutty and earthy. It’s juicy with a moderate body and fine tannins. It’s seductive with a bite.
With a similar dynamic, “Bright Flight” has an easygoing jovial demeanor with traces of darkness and cynicism. “Time Will Break the World” is a gothy folk song with ominous imagery:
The icicles are dripping like the whole house is weeping
On an evil little car with gull-wing doors
And I have no idea what drives you, mister
But I've killed you in my mind so many times before
“I Remember Me” is a sweet, twisted love song about waking up from a coma after being hit by a truck while trying to propose marriage, but it’s too late. “Let’s Not And Say We Did” is a fun, raucous, modern saloon song. It’s a party song about how they “could ride all day in a one horse open sleigh” driven by exuberant piano. “Tennessee” is one of the more well-known Silver Jews songs and it’s a cute duet with David and Cassie whose vocals really shine.
On “Friday Night Fever”, David talks about getting some space from his wife and getting some alone time: “Sometimes a man just needs a breather. She knows I love her and I need her.” Twenty years later, this is a sentiment women across the country sure as shit can relate to regarding men. That’s the beautiful thing about wine: it can grant you that breather you need.
The last track “Death of an Heir of Sorrows” is a pretty, somber Country slow jam with nice lap steel, delicate piano and David’s signature nonchalant croon. It’s a reality punch about death and trying to rationalize it, and also a tribute to love. “Bright Flight” is a raw and honest product by an indie rock band pushing themselves into Country territory, quite successfully I might add. It has these characteristics in common with Antonio Macanita’s A Touriga Vai Nua - an unfiltered, unconventional interpretation of Portuguese wine. Both are relaxing with enough jolt for a fine fall pairing.