The Dão is one of the most famous wine regions in Portugal. The area has a long history of wine growing, dating back to the ancient Romans. Today, the high-quality red wines of the region are particularly popular with connoisseurs.
The landscape of Dão, located in northern Portugal, is characterized by vineyards around the eponymous river Dão, a beautiful northern tributary of the Mondego.
With 20,000 hectares of vineyards, the region is one of the largest wine regions in Portugal. It is part of the larger region of Beiras, which stretches across Portugal and is bounded only by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and Spain to the east. Since 1990, the Dão wine region has been classified as a DOC region .
Excellent climatic and geographic conditions
The Dão has a continental and partly Mediterranean climate, which is characterized by long, dry summers and relatively cool winters with little rainfall. In the Dão one finds almost exclusively granite soils, which allow the roots of the vines to penetrate deeply into the soil.
Granite soils are excellent for growing grapes and this is reflected in the quality of the wines grown here. In addition, it is quite crystalline rock, which is coarse-grained and has a high proportion of minerals such as quartz or feldspar.
The vineyards are occasionally interrupted by forests. Several mountains in the west protect the region from Atlantic winds and too much precipitation, which is very beneficial for the quality of the wines.
The Dão is also a plateau located at about 500 meters above sea level. As a result, day and night temperatures differ quite significantly from each other.
What is special is that the Dão region has a very fragmented structure of the cultivated areas. Because the Dão is cultivated by a large number of winegrowers - compared to its size: over 100,000 winegrowers are active in the area and grow wine in their small plots.
The climatic framework conditions described above, in combination with the mostly local grape varieties, result in wines with a digestible structure, which nevertheless have a high degree of fruit abundance. There is also plenty of character here and the acidity and sugar content is usually balanced.
Red wines in the majority
Traditionally, mainly red wines are grown in the Dão. The Portuguese wine-growing stronghold is best known for its excellent wines made from the Alfrocheiro Preto, Aragonez, Touriga Nacional, Jaen and Rufete grape varieties.
But a whole range of other varieties are also approved for cultivation there. In the area, the wines are usually stored for four years before they are sold, as the quality only really comes into its own after this period.
However, most wines from the Dão can still be stored very well for a few more years. This helps them to mature to their fullness.
White wine is grown much less frequently in the Dão. Arinto do Dao, Cerceal, Verdelho, Bical and Encruzado varieties are commonly used to make white wines.
History of wine in the Dão
Viticulture in the Dão has a long tradition. The ancient Romans brought the first vines to the Dão and since there was a great demand for wine in the city of Viseu, a lot of wine was also produced.
When phylloxera was rampant in the French vineyards in the 19th century, the region played a significant role in solving this epidemic: a large number of vines were imported from the Dão to free the winegrowers from this catastrophic situation - with Success.
In 1908, the region was first recognized when the Dão was recognized as the country's second autonomous region. In the second half of the 20th century, viticulture in the Dão was organized through cooperatives, which led to an overly generous vinification of the grapes grown.
However, in the last few decades more winegrowers have been able to establish themselves who attach great importance to high quality - and that pays off: some of the best wines in Portugal now come from this region.
The main grape varieties of the Dão
In the Portuguese wine-growing region of Dão, red wines dominate the picture. The Touriga Nacional grape variety is the most widespread, followed by Tinta Roriz.
This is an autochthonous grape variety from Portugal, which is also frequently cultivated in the Douro Valley . The vines have a strong shoot growth and bring relatively low yields. Therefore they are very resistant. Genetic analyzes have shown a close relationship to the Tinta Barroca variety.
For a long time, Touriga Nacional was mostly used for the production of port wine. Only in the last few decades has the variety been used more and more often for conventional red wine.
Wines from Touriga Nacional are rich in tannins and have a very varietal, spicy and slightly cool taste with a relatively high alcohol content and a balanced acid structure. They contain complex spicy notes and resinous aromas combined in a dark colour.
Tinta Roriz, also known by its Spanish name Tempranillo, is Spain's most important red wine variety. Since the climatic and geographical conditions in Portugal are similar, Tinta Roriz is also often grown here, and especially in the Dão.
The variety derived from Pinot Noir has a strong, fragrant and fruity taste. The relatively low alcohol content of 11 - 13 percent has a high aging potential in wood. The Tinta Roriz is particularly characterized by mild, soft tannins, which means that even young wines can be drunk well.
The Jaen is a grape variety with a very high yield, which is also relatively widespread in western and central Spain. It is an autochthonous variety of the Dão region.
Rufete is a grape that is widespread in both the Douro region and the Dão. Wines from Rufete are quite light and weak in color and tend to oxidize quickly.
Arinto do Dao
This is an autochthonous white wine variety. The result is delicate, acidic wines with a citrus scent. Also known as Pedernã, Arinto do Dão is widespread in the Bucelas region.
The Portuguese wine region of Dão has some excellent wines to offer, which are characterized by their great variety. Some Dão red wines in particular have attracted a great deal of attention from sommeliers.
The area around the Dão River is also extremely impressive, which, in combination with its long wine-growing tradition, makes the region a very interesting choice for your next wine trip.
You can find out more about wines from Portugal in our blog .
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