Greater Heights


Greater Heights

Fresh, aromatic and with great ageing potential, the wines produced in the mountainous region of Dão are the stars of VINAL - Vinhas de Altitude

TEXT: Cristina Alcock|PHOTO: Various| 29 May 2017

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Greater Heights

‘The results are extraordinary: the white wines are balanced, crisp, aromatic and age very well, while the reds are full-bodied with refined tannins and moderately high acidity’


NE OF Portugal’s most iconic winemaking regions is having something of a revival. Gone are the days of ‘nightmare’ wines, a term that the renowned Portuguese producer Dirk Niepoort used to describe the region’s heavy, wood-laden wines of yesteryear.

Now Niepoort, who gained international recognition for his Douro creations, is just one of the many winemakers putting Dão back on the map, a region that delivers stunning wines defined by their crispness, structure and longevity. These are the altitude wines of Portugal.

Located in the Beira Alta region in the north of Portugal, the geographical and geological conditions of the Dão are what give the winemaking region its unique oenological profile. Surrounded by mountains that protect them from the winds, the vines are planted in schist or granite soils at an altitude of between 400m and 700m.

The terroir owes much of its singularity to the marked temperature differences: cold, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, along with warm days and cold nights. Dozens of varietals flourish here, but the most representative of the region are Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Jaen and Tinta Roriz in the reds (a common blend), and Encruzado, Malvasia, Bical and Cercial in the whites.

The region is steeped in winemaking tradition, but, unlike the vast estates of the Douro, it is home to countless small producers, whose properties are likely to have stayed in the family. Today, many of them are undergoing renovations fitting of this revival, spearheaded by some of the region’s most prominent winemakers who are planting new grapes or making the most of century-old vines.

The results are extraordinary: the white wines are balanced, crisp, aromatic and age very well, while the reds are full-bodied with refined tannins and moderately high acidity. Aged in the bottle, they show great elegance and complexity. In fact, experts say that the Dão offers the best value for money on the market, with exceptional wines available at affordable prices.

Showcasing the versatility and the unique characteristics of this incredible region, 15 of the finest Dão producers were present at VINAL - Vinhos de Altitude, which took place at the Adega Cooperativa de Vila Nova de Tazem, in Gouveia, on May 27 and 28.

Wines from the cooperative winery were available for tasting, along with those from Casa da Passarella, Casa de São Matias, Seacampo, Quinta da Lomba (Niepoort’s Dão estate), MOB, Quinta da Bica, Quinta da Espinhosa, Quinta Madre de Água, Quinta da Pellada, Quinta da Ponte Pedrinha, Quinta do Margarido, Quinta dos Garnachos and Quinta Tapada do Barro.

The event, organised by the Gouveia council and produced by EV-Essência do Vinho, also featured commented tastings and wine talks from the biggest names on the Portuguese wine scene, show-cooking sessions and regional delicacies, such as Serra da Estrela cheese and sausages, from local producers.

Having recently been overshadowed by the likes of the Douro, the Alentejo and to some extent the up-and-coming regions of Bairrada and Lisboa, the iconic Dão is returning to its rightful place: at the heights of Portuguese winemaking.

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