Dão - a wine, history and contrasts region. The rough land, where at all times you see a mountain ridge, a terraced area full of grapevines and a cultivated levelled land, providing a rich and always renewed landscape. The great mountain peeks through the horizon line.
The rivers and streams of cold, transparent waters roll more stone than sand. The Mondego river watershed, with the Dão and Alva rivers highlighted, drains about 95% of the rain that falls in the region and gives a lot of “character” to the wines produced there.
The air you breathe is pure and smells like pine. We by nature know how to receive those who come from outside. The rough land, the smallholdings and the exuberant vegetation with greens of all shades contribute to the almost anonymity of the vineyards in these landscapes. And yet, there are over 75 million vineyards.
The lagaretas (small wine press) - excavated in the hard granitic rock, and some traces of the Roman presence confirm the millenarian tradition of wine production in the region.
The strong implantation of religious orders allows attributing to the farmers monks of the Middle Age the origin of the Dão’s vineyards and wine production knowledge. The references to the vineyard and wine in municipal registers and municipal statutes attest its great social, economic and religious importance throughout the history. This is the portrait of the first established wine region to be regulated in Portugal in the year 1910.
The region is too small to feel big climatic differences. The climate is temperate, with dry, hot summers and moderately cold, rainy winters. However, climatic instability, which happens a little throughout the Iberian Peninsula, is a determining factor for the quality and quantity of wine production. As the people say, it is very common for the summer to go on holidays in winter time and for the winter to walk around in summer time. The late frost of May, thunderstorms and hailstorms of May and June and the rains of June and September are the Dão's winemakers nightmare and also responsible, like the great wine-growing regions of the World, for the low number of crops per decade, rarely more than four.
On the other hand, when the weather is high with high diurnal thermal amplitudes in September, which makes the life of the grapevines difficult and causes an arduous maturation process of the grapes, the wines reach elegance and achieve a concentration of aromas that make it unlike any other.
The granite with large pink crystals of feldspar constitutes the substrate of the soil where about 97% of the long vineyards of the region are implanted. Its weatherability due to rainwater gives rise to sandy-loam, unfertile and easily drainage soils, which are one of the secrets to the production of the highest quality grapes.
The homogeneity of the soils and the microclimatic variations, as a result of the uneven soil, altitude and multiple exposures, don’t allow to express unequivocally the concept of “Terroir” (the environmental conditions in which grapes are grown and that gives a wine its unique flavour and aroma), being more appropriate to speak in micro viticultural zones, where wines are produced with the same “character” but different and exciting peculiarities.
The wines of the Dão region have long been considered the most sophisticated and exciting wines produced in Portugal. Until the technological and technical revolution took place with the funds of Brussels in the early 1980s, those were blended wines made from grapes harvested with 11 to 13 percent of potential alcohol by volume, according to simple and minimalist technology. When well-made, the wines had “character”, identity and a unique style, essentially influenced by the climate of the region and the low fertility of the soils.
The new white wines were pale yellow with a discreet aroma and a vibrant acidity, which made them somewhat aggressive in the mouth but allowed the wines to age wonderfully. With time the aroma intensified and gained enormous complexity, the acidity dissimulated and emerged the elegance in the purest European style.
The young red wines were ruby with a sealed aroma, good acidity and irreverent astringency that only shone at the meal table. After aging nobly inside the bottle, the wines then revealed all their “character”, where the aromatic sophistication and elegance, the balance on the mouth and the long apotheosis ending always were the brand’s image.
The wine and technology revolution that took place in the Dão region since the early 1980s transfigured wines whose multiple styles, both white and red, became influenced by the “character” of the individual vinified wine castes (see description of these) and by the winemakers and producers personality. The use (or abuse) of current wine technology and tools is a threat to the geographical identity of wines. The excessive prevention of wine oxidation, low temperatures of fermentation and the use of oak wood among other practices have taken out some “character” from these wines, however has given it a more seductive, consensual and international style.
Some producers and winemaker, attentive and concerned about the need to produce "wines with a sense of place" have already started mixing grapes, low grade grapes and with little manipulation in the cellar, soon giving to Dão’s wine its authenticity back.
Single vine varieties for unique wines.