Members of the Algarve Wine Society recently visited the Dão region in the heart of Portugal’s Beira Alta region.
Beira Alta is home to some of Portugal’s most distinctive and distinguished red wines and rapidly improving whites. The Dão is surrounded by mountains, and the vineyards themselves are at altitudes ranging from 200-900m and so the region is well protected from harsh weather and enjoys hot, dry weather for the majority of the grape-growing season.
Coupled with cool nights, the altitude helps temper the heat and allows the grapes to retain their all-important natural acidity supported by the soil, which is primarily granitic in origin. This creates perfect conditions for making fine, elegant wines.
Dão wines used to be fairly astringent, and there are still wineries that favour that style, but nowadays the wines are much more approachable and the Dão is sometimes likened to Portugal’s Burgundy.
It’s not because of any physical similarity between the regions, but because of the style of wine. Like red Burgundy, good Dão wine doesn’t rely on power for its effects, but instead aims at subtlety and finesse, a cause helped by the natural acidity of the grapes. However, some wineries are aiming for more weight and some are experimenting with other grapes such as Syrah.
Touriga Nacional is the leading red variety of the Dão but it is more commonly blended with varieties such as Tinta Roriz (the Tempranillo of Spain), Jaen and Alfrocheiro Preto. Dão also makes increasingly successful white wines.
Encruzado is the leading white grape, often supported by Bical or Arinto, among others.
Members of the Algarve Wine Society enjoyed tastings at some of the top wineries of the region. All of them have featured in the top 50 in ViniPortugal’s ’50 Greatest Portuguese Wines’. Some have scored very highly with Robert Parker’s system and Quinta das Marias’ 2011 Touriga Nacional was voted the best wine in Portugal for 2016. Quinta do Cruzeiro (Julia Kemper wines) and Quinta do Perdigão are already organic and others are set to follow.
Aside from the wineries already mentioned, we visited Casa da Passarella, Quinta dos Roques, Quinta da Falorca and Quinta de Lemos. These wineries produce relatively small amounts of high quality wine, the largest being 100,000 bottles and the smallest about 35,000 bottles. In contrast, we ended our trip with a visit to Quinta de Cabriz whose annual production is over three million bottles; not the same quality but great value for money.
You can find more information about the Algarve Wine Society and how to join by visiting the website www.algarvewinesociety.com