Dão and Lafões

Dão

Dao.jpgSurrounded on all sides by mountains, the Dão region is protected both from the direct influence of the continental climate and from the chill and rains from the ocean.

The really special thing about the wines of the Dão, whether red or white, is the delicious balance of all their constituent parts - acidity, alcohol, concentration of flavour – it all adds up to elegance.

The region might have been created with winemaking in mind – you couldn’t wish for better conditions.

 


Region and Climate

Surrounded by the mountain chains of Caramulo, Buçaco, Nave and Estrela, the Dão region is totally protected from cold winds, summer rain clouds from the Atlantic, and even continental storms. Within its mountain walls, Dão is full of contrasts: warmer in the west, cooler in the north and east, gently rolling hills, deep valleys, forests and mountain slopes; damp, cold winters; and summers that are generally sunny, warm and dry. Yet in late summer, the days become rapidly cooler, allowing for long, slow ripening and the development of complex flavours.

The vineyards lie high in the hills, at 400 to 500m, even sometimes as high as 800m, on decomposed schist or granite. Vineyards need to be carefully sited for best exposure to the sun to ensure perfect ripeness. This gives Dão wines an innate balance of lovely, bright, mineral acidity, wonderful fragrance, character and intensity.

Grapes and Styles

Once upon a time, many Dão wines lost much of their elegant, fruity character by excessive ageing in old barrels. With shorter ageing in today’s newer oak barrels, or even unoaked wines, the natural quality can shine through. Top red estate wines tend to be composed at least half of the star variety Touriga Nacional, and maybe blended with Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz or possibly a few other local varieties.

Not all Dão is red. The whites are improving (especially from the Encruzado grape), but only in the high vineyards around Tondela do whites outnumber reds. There are also excellent Dão rosés and sparkling wines. 

Most vineyards have been in the same family for generations. More than 30,000 grape-growers, some with very tiny plots, produce about half the DOC grapes. Co-operatives are very important here, nowadays they employ modern technology. But the revival in quality was led by individual producers, both large and small. 


Main white grapes:

  • Encruzado, Bical, Cercial and Malvasia

Main red grapes:

  • Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Jaen, Aragonez and Rufete