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Apr 28, 2020

Located in north-central Portugal, just a three-hour drive from Lisbon, Dão is a small quiet region with outstanding, elegant, and distinctive wines. Named for the Dão river which carves a path through the rugged, old granite hills here, the region is the original home of Portugal’s top red grape, Touriga Nacional.

Map from the Wine For Normal People Book

Made up of tens of thousands of growers and small plots, just 5% of the land area of this region is planted to vines, 80% of which are red grapes. The hot, dry climate of this distinctive region is made possible by its unique position on a plateau sheltered on 3 sides by granite mountain ranges – the Serra da Estrela, the Serra do Caramulo, and the Serra da Nave.


Mountains protect the area from the capricious Atlantic and continental storms, and the provide altitude which means the grapes can cool down at night, hoarding precious acidity.  The granite subsoil also helps boost the acidity of the wines, making them fresh and bright, rather than dark and brooding as is often the case in the Douro wines.


There are seven subregions can be on the bottle: Alva, Besteiros, Castendo, Serra da Estrela, Silgueiros, Terras de Azurara, and  Terras de Senhorim, but you will rarely see them (at the time of this show in 2020, at least).

What can you expect from the wines?

Reds produce medium bodied wines with spicey, peppery, and red fruit notes. They can be earthy or even barnyard like with an excellent balance of alcohol and acidity. This is the new style of Dão, for which it has become known, and along with its myriad plots, this lightness and elegance is why some refer to the region as the Burgundy of Portugal. Older styles were harsh, tannic, and lacked both fruit and acidity – rustic to say the least. The grapes used here are:

  • Touriga Nacional as the leading red --At least 20% of every blend must be Touriga
  • Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo of Spain)
  • Jaen (Mencía of Spain)
  • Alfrocheiro Preto – a native to this area with dark color, dark fruit character and a good balance of alcohol and acid
  • Rufete – a lesser used, fruity red
  • And sometimes Baga, Bastardo (usually for lesser wines)

File:Touriga Nacional.jpg

Touriga Nacional

Styles: Whites used to be oxidized and like a day old apple but with better winemaking they are now refreshing  with citrus, mineral, and nut notes with great acidity. The best are exclusively made of Encruzado, with its floral notes and oily textures it is a white to seek out. Malvasia Fina, Bical, and Arinto are also used in whites.

Rosé and Sparkling  wines can also be found in the Dão.

Great producers to see out are:

  • Quinta dos Carvalhais – Sogrape -- (The Oaks Estate)
  • Quinta da Pellada/Quinta de Saes
  • Casa de Santar
  • Quinta do Vale das Escadinhas
  • Quinta de Lemos


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