The entrance of Portugal into the European Community in 1986 marked a watershed for regions like Dão, with an influx of investment, modern equipment and knowledge encouraging a real turnaround in quality and style.
From the 1950s to the 1980s producers were obliged to deliver their grapes to local co-operatives; facilities that largely lacked both the tools and know-how to make good wines. But from the mid-1980s, individual producers began increasingly bottling and selling their own wines, while new faces invested in the region often purchasing small, high-quality, low-yielding vineyards. There are still many, however, who continue to work to a high-yield philosophy and sell their grapes to co-operatives or large wine companies.
Located in the heart of the Beira Alta, south of the Douro, the Dão DOC covers about 20,000ha of vineyards. It is home to probably Portugals top red grape variety, Touriga Nacional, and gets its name from the eponymous river that flows through the region. It is cool and dry, bordered by granite mountains: Caramulo and Buçaco to the west, Lapa, Leomil, Nave and Cascalheira to the north, and the Serra da Estrela to the east and south. The best vineyards are located relatively high up at an altitude of between 200 and 500 metres, often in the foothills of the aforementioned mountains. Most soil is granite-based which bestows the wines with a good acidity that helps them age.
Dãos whites tend to be crisp, fresh, fragrant and well-balanced and are made from Encruzado, Malvasia Fina, Bical, Verdelho, Cercial, Barcelo and Assario Branco. The principal varieties (castas) for the reds are Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), Alfrocheiro Preto, Jaen, Bastardo and Tinta Pinheira. At their best they yield intense, spicy reds with a wonderful perfume, substantial tannins and fresh acidity.
Recommended Producer: Callabriga