This large red and white wine region south of the Douro Valley was for long well and truly strangled by old-fashioned winemaking methods, particularly long maceration with bitter stalks and unwisely prolonged ageing before bottling so that the wines tasted hard rather than fruity. Things have been changing, however. As recently as the end of the 1980s there was a ridiculous statute which required all grapes to be handed over to co-operative wineries. The abolition of this monopoly and more modern winemaking have resulted in wines that are slowly becoming juicier and friendlier. Producers such as Quinta dos Roques and Quinta da Pellada show that the region can make wines that have a fine core of fruit on the palate with no lack of ageing potential and interest. Both have been experimenting with varietal wines while getting to grips with the essential characteristics of the grapes allowed by the Dão regulations. The finest port grape, Touriga Nacional, is a significant ingredient in many ambitious modern red Dãos, while Tempranillo, known as Tinta Roriz in most of Portugal, and Jaen (Spain’s Mencía) can also produce some good wine in the right hands. White Dão has tended to be an even more anachronistic product, even if the Encruzado grape used in most blends can be quite crisp and fragrant. Quinta dos Roques makes some quite fleshy white wine – a far cry from the dried-out white Dão of yesteryear. Dão will surely realise its potential before too long.
Some favourite producers: Quinta dos Carvalhais, Quinta do Foz de Arouce, Quinta da Pellada and Quinta de Saes, Quinta dos Roques and Quinta das Maias, Quinta da Vegia.