Dão: noble crus from the highlands
The wine world eyes Dão, the Portuguese wine region in the northern foothills of the Estrela Mountains (Serra da Estrela), with greater interest with each passing year. A cool climate, sparse granite soils and first-class native varieties result in wines which brilliantly master the balancing act between fruitfulness and wholesome structure. The majority of the wines here are assemblages. The red Touriga Nacional and white Encruzado varieties in particular are guarantors for first-class wines.
White wines from Dão
Red wines from Dão
The vineyards here are clearly not as spectacularly situated as those on the Douro River, somewhat further north. For this reason, the Dão region is considered the epitome of rural, tranquil Portugal. The vineyards are widely distributed within the hilly landscape, often surrounded by forests and meadows. In addition, winemaking here rests in the hands of adept vintners – feudal estates are the exception. Conditions for cultivating premium wines are excellent. The sparse granite soils force the vines to grow deep roots. A mountain range protects the vineyards from humid, cool Atlantic air. The climate in this plateau, where vines grow on average 500 metres above sea level, is continentally influenced, with great differences between daily highs and nightly lows and between summer and winter months. The terroir is ideal for cultivating complex, well-structured wines with great character, in which neither the acidity nor the sugar content needs to be artificially supplemented.
Home of the Touriga Nacional
Winemakers work almost exclusively with indigenous varieties. Researchers suspect that the fantastic Touriga Nacional variety, which today is grown beyond Portugal, in Australia and California, has its origins in the Dão region. Thus, in many wines, the Touriga Nacional plays the lead role; however, it is often supplemented with varieties such as Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cão, Alfrocheiro Preto or Jaen. The latter of these varieties comes from the same family as the Spanish Mencia variety and also yields distinctively fruity varietal wines with a cool character and plenty of freshness. Among white wines, the Encruzado variety has increasingly proven its quality potential in recent years. It yields complex wines with aromas of citrus fruit and herbs and is well-suited for oak maturation.
Innovative vintners as pioneers
As the city of Viseu played an important role in Roman times, it is assumed that the beginnings of viticulture here date to this era. When phylloxera devastated French vineyards in the 19th century, Dão wines were exported on a large scale to France. After the end of the Second World War, cooperatives took the reins in the Dão region, at times vinifying 95 percent of the grapes cultivated here. For about 25 years, innovative vintners have used the excellent conditions to produce wines that are among the best in all of Portugal..