Typical Dão Grapes and Where to Find Them

If you are looking for Dão wines do not expect to find many at the LCBO as Douro wines seem to be the big Portuguese wine area favoured by LCBO buyers. Too bad their heads have been in the sand as a mere 71 kms from Regua in the Douro lies the City of Viseu which is the gateway into the Dão. From Porto the Dão wine region is about a 90-minute drive.
Expect grapes you will not find in Canada. You can find reds, whites, sparklers and Rosés. All these types of wines are delicious and some are memorable.
The main red grapes are Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and the spicy Jaen which is known in Spain as Mencia. Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz are the foundation and Jean is the spicy little devil particularly suited for the spicy sausages of the Dão. Alfrocheiro adds the fruity aromas. You can expect most often red blends but occasionally they can be bottled solo.
As for the whites the big players are Encruzado which are delicate with complex aromas. On occasion they can be a bit rough in a dynamic and pleasing way. My opinion is that this grape is a huge monster ready to be unleashed upon the wine world. When oaked to the right degree it is similar to a costly California oaked Chardonnay. I have had some oaked varieties under 5 € that can kick ass with $40 Chardonnays. Often it will be blended with Malvasia Fina which gives the wine more citrus and flowery notes.
On the sidelines and used as blenders for white wines are Bical and Cerceal Blanco.
I can’t really write about these grapes in detail other than advising you to experience themselves. I just returned from the Dão where over five days I must have tried over 175 wines from close to twenty wineries not to mention at least 30 more at dinners and lunches.
You are close enough to the Dão from Porto that you can combine both the Douro and Dão. As you really do not want to drive I suggest you contact Top Travel in Porto ([email protected]) to see what type of deal they can give you as to a tour of any of the 5 wine routes of the Dão. If you do want to drive from Porto the drive is easy but a bit twisty.
As I indicated good luck in finding any Dão wines at the LCBO. So best head to Portugal to Porto. There are 5 wine routes with 42 wineries. As I understand it you must have a dedicated person to handle visitors and a washroom to be a winery on the wine routes. In upcoming articles we will investigate some of these wineries.
Of course the wines are wonderful but perhaps even more magical is the geography. Hidden valleys, massive piles of granite glacial boulders and beautiful villages dot the route. Food in this region is phenomenal from beef and veal to seafood and the famous Serra da Estrela cheese served on toast and pumpkin jam!
You’ll note that granitic soils are the hallmark of Dão and you’ll see big chunks of granite in the soil quite like the schist in the Douro that add a certain minerality to the wines of both regions.
As a closing remark even if you are not a wine buff the trips through the Dão will leave you absolutely delighted with the ruggedness of the area. The Douro has a beautiful sculpted nature to it. The Dão has a much more rugged and rebellious beauty to it.
The scenery, wines and food of the Dão region are incredible. If you are in Porto a slight diversion to this area may very well win you over to Dão. A good friend in Porto asked me which wines I prefer. Is it Dão or Douro? It is a damn close call and I’ll keep that answer to myself.

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write." Email Robert Stephen

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