The Dão region in Portugal has always fascinated me due to the amazing reds you can find for an affordable price, and the fact that it’s so often overlooked by wine lovers.
When you have tasted some of the best wines in the world, you can’t easily go back to drinking what you can afford. I’ve even seen people stuck in dead-end jobs for decades so they can keep their wine discount.
It’s like pizza. I have had one too many good pizzas in Napoli. Now I can’t eat anything less than a slurpy sourdough base and the radioactively bright-tasting tomatoes.
And the same goes with wine in pubs. Why bother? I’ll have a gin and tonic.
Some may say, nice problem to have. Boo hoo. But that’s not why I’m saying it. Working in wine is more like Upstairs, Downstairs. You are always looking for the best value.
Here’s my Monday to Thursday sales when I worked in Holland Park. Bought with an unsurprising level of ennui you find in people who rule the world:
- 1 bottle of Pouilly Fume plus 1 bottle of non-brand Champagne, or
- 1 bottle of Cloudy Bay plus a Brouilly
- 1 bottle of Montagny and a pack of quail eggs
I could not drink this every night. I would be dead. But then I don’t have million-dollar bonuses in the City to lullaby me to sleep every night. And anyway, I need to protect my hard-working liver for the long haul.
When you work in wine you need to box clever.
How to drink quality red wine everyday
Less is more. When it comes to wine, I always look for something that is less about reputation and presentation and more about pleasure and quality.
This means that there is a certain amount of finesse in the wine but at a price that is below it’s benchmark in other regions. It could be because the name is too difficult to pronounce, or it is a wine region without any marketing budget.
Right now where I find plenty of this in organic red wines from the Dao in Portugal. It’s where I am finding a lot of joy in wine.
Here’s what I look for, and in this order:
- Dão wines
- Organic wines
So, it’s not every Portuguese wine, not every Dao wine, not every organic wine. Two out of three is not bad.
Dão Red Wines: Grapes and Terroir
The Dão wine region in Portugal is known for its wine production. It’s located just south of the famed Douro Valley. The region is also home to the Touriga Nacional, which is a principal grape for port wine.
Today’s best reds from Dão are made from the Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. Several other common grapes such as Jaen and Baga are also commonly used in the Dao Portugal wine region, and many producers make use of oak maturation and lengthy maceration to create big, bold and tannic reds (these are not the wines I particularly like, but it is common).
Bastardo and Baga grapes are also widely planted in this area, and these are some of the lesser grapes that dominate Bairrada.
The Dão River is significant enough to have its own DOC. This river has carved its way through crystal-rich granite for thousands of years.
I have a fancy idea that it’s the granitic soil in the Dao that gives these wines a refreshing quality. But more tech/MW wine people would argue how much does soil type affect the taste of wine?
I would say we are talking about acidity when we talk about minerality (freshness you taste), whether it’s a Dão wine Ald special or from a Dão wine gift from specialist importers. Dao has a certain freshness without pretension.
The Dao region of Portugal continues to surprise and educate. It’s a region that is full of natural beauty and doesn’t have the marketing budgets of other countries but makes really delicious red wine.
There are a whole lot of winemakers making excellent organic wines. Some new and some old. Don’t be shy to explore the world on your own and discover your own finding. Just remember that, once you find them, keep them close.
Recommended wine –
Dão Red Wine: Gota Wines Prunus Tinto 2018
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Image: Robert Delaunay Portuguese Woman / Wikimedia Commons
Have you tried any wines from Dao in Portugal? What do you think?