Dão Region, the Portuguese Burgundy

Dão is a wine-producing region in Portugal in the country’s north-central part.

Because of its famous production of high-quality wines, full of complexity, elegance, and enormous longevity, for some great wine lovers, it is no surprise and no exaggeration to compare these two excellent world wine regions, the Dão and Burgundy.

These two regions are characterized by producing red wines with aromas full of complexity and, at the same time, full of subtleties. In the mouth, they present themselves with excellent intensity and a delicate structure.

portugal vineyard

Behold the Breathtaking Splendor of a Portuguese Vineyard.

The History of the Dão Region

The history of the Dão goes back to the Roman period when the Romans introduced viticulture to the region. The monks of the Cistercian Order were also responsible for developing viticulture in the area and growing grapes in their monasteries.

During the Middle Ages, the region was ruled by the Moors, who introduced advanced irrigation and viticulture techniques. After the Christian conquest in 1055, the area was integrated into the Kingdom of Leon and later into the Kingdom of Portugal in 1139.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, wine production in the Dão region grew in importance thanks to the demand for quality wines by the Portuguese nobility.

The region was formally recognized as a demarcated wine region in 1908 when the Dão Region Viticulture Commission was created.

However, wine production in the region was severely affected by phylloxera. This plague devastated vineyards across Europe in the late 19th century.

In 1940, the region suffered decisive government intervention. The initial intention was to improve the quality of the wines, so new regulations were instituted by Salazar’s government, creating a program for the participation of cooperatives in the sector. These cooperatives had exclusivity in purchasing locally produced grapes; private companies could only buy ready-made wines. Unfortunately, the effects of this policy were not favorable, and the Dão industry, without competition, ended up producing inferior quality wines, with sometimes less than ideal hygiene standards.

The recovery of the Dão region was slow but gradual. It was driven by the increased demand for quality wines in the 1980s.

After Portugal joined the European Economic Community, the legislation in force – monopolistic and obviously not in line with the block’s principles – was revoked. New wine enterprises were set up, and many new estates began the rebirth of what had been one of the country’s best-known wine-producing regions. In 1990, the Dão became a Denomination of Controlled Origin.

Today, the Dão region is considered one of Portugal’s most important wine regions, with many family-owned wineries producing high-quality wines and some of the country’s leading wine producers.

Since then, wine production has been essential to the local economy and culture. Dão producers are known for their dedication and passion for wine.

Terroir of the Dão Region

The Dão region is one of Portugal’s most important wine regions and is known for the quality of its red wines. The terroir of the Dão region is characterized by a temperate continental climate, with hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters. The vines are planted on granite and schist soils, with good drainage and low fertility, which results in grapes with concentrated flavors and aromas.

It is located in north-central Portugal, in the transition zone between the Serra da Estrela mountainous region and the Mondego River plains. The terrain is quite rugged, with altitudes ranging from 400 to 1200 meters above sea level.

The main grape varieties cultivated in the Dão Region

The main grape varieties used in Dão wine production are Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro Preto, and Jaen for reds, and Encruzado, Bical, and Cercial for whites. Touriga Nacional is the most important grape variety in the region. It is known for producing full-bodied, elegant wines with red fruits and spices aromas. Encruzado is the most important white grape variety in the Dão, producing complex, aromatic wines with white fruit and floral notes.

Dão Region red wine

Grão Vasco: Jaen (Mencia) Red Wine from the Enchanting Dão Region in Portugal

What to expect from the wines of the Dão Region?

The wines produced in the Dão are known for their complexity and elegance, with fruity and spicy aromas and oaky notes from aging in oak barrels. The reds are full-bodied and rich, with firm tannins and balanced acidity. At the same time, the whites are elegant and fresh, with vibrant acidity and delicate aromas.

Dão producers have worked hard to improve the quality of the wines produced in the region, adopting sustainable growing practices and investing in technology to improve wine production and quality. Many producers are family-owned, passing down tradition from generation to generation. Most vineyards are grown on small plots, allowing producers to work with greater attention and care.

The sub-regions of the Dão

The Dão wine-producing region is located in central Portugal. It is known for producing full-bodied, elegant red and aromatic, fresh white wines. The area is divided into seven sub-regions, each with its own unique characteristics:

Besteiros: located in the far south of the Dão region, it is known for producing red wines with notes of dark fruit and spice.

Castendo: located northwest of the Dão region, mainly produces red wines with notes of red fruits and soft tannins.

Silgueiros: located in the center of the Dão region, it is known for producing full-bodied, fruity red wines with notes of ripe fruit and spices.

Alva: located in the northeast of the Dão region, it is known for producing red wines with high acidity, red fruit notes, and firm tannins.

Serra da Estrela: located in the eastern part of the Dão region, it is known for producing medium-bodied red wines with notes of red fruits and spices.

Terras de Azurara: located in the southern part of the Dão region and is known for producing fresh and aromatic white wines with citrus and floral notes.

Lafões: located in the northwestern part of the Dão region, it is known for producing light and fresh white wines with white fruit and floral notes.

Each sub-region has its climate, soil, and topography, influencing the wine’s style and quality. The wine producers of the Dão region take pride in creating wines that express each sub-regions unique characteristics, making the Dão region one of the most exciting and diverse in Portugal.

Wine Tourism

Wine tourism in the Dão region is a unique experience for wine lovers as the region will provide its high-quality wines and stunning natural landscapes.

Several options of wineries and cellars offer guided tours, wine tastings, and harmonizations with local food. Participating in activities such as walks through the vineyards, picnics, cooking courses, and even participating in the grape harvest is possible.

Some of the best-known wineries in the Dão region include Casa de Santar, Quinta dos Roques, Quinta da Pellada, Quinta da Falorca, and Quinta de Lemos. Each offers a unique and immersive experience in the culture and wine production of the region.

On this Day

1851: The Phylloxera pest devastates vineyards across Europe, including Portugal.

1 October 1932: The Região Demarcada do Douro (Douro Demarcated Region) is established as a protected wine region.

10 March 2011: The Douro Boys Association is founded, consisting of five leading winemakers from the Douro Valley committed to promoting the region’s wines.

22 June 2019: The city of Porto hosts the Wine City International Conference, bringing together experts and enthusiasts to discuss the future of wine tourism and innovation.

18 September 2020: Portugal is named the Best Wine Destination in the World by the World Travel Awards, recognizing its diverse wine regions and exceptional wines.

Want to read more? Try these books!

Encompassing the Globe- Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries Isabel of Burgundy

Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesTags: , , , By Published On: July 21, 2023Last Updated: February 29, 2024

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