Dão is a Portuguese wine region situated in the Região Demarcada do Dão with the Dão-Lafões sub region of the Centro, Portugal. It is one of the oldest established wine regions in Portugal. Dão wine is produced in a mountainous region with a temperate climate, in the area of the Rio Mondego and Dão rivers in the north central region of Portugal. The region became a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) appellation in 1990. The Dão region is the origin of the Touriga Nacional vine that is the principal component of Port wine.
The area is home to several dozen varieties of indigenous grapes with the majority of wine production being made from the Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen, Alfrocheiro Preto and Encruzado. 80% of the region’s production is in red wines with DOC regulations stipulating that at least 20% of the production must be from Touriga Nacional. Some of the top reserve wine may carry the designation Dão nobre (meaning noble Dão). Another reserve designation Garrafeira requires wines to be 0.5% higher in alcohol content then the 12.5% minimum and to spend at least 2 years in aging in oak. The maximum yield for red wine grapes is 70 hl/ha.
The red wines tend to be very tannic due to prolong periods of maceration during winemaking. Many producers make liberal use of French and Portuguese oak. The style has been improving with some producers concentrating on make more fruit-forward styles with smoother tannins. Historically the white wines were known for being over oxidized and full bodied but more modern winemaking has been producing white wines that are fresh, fruity and fragrant. The Encruzado is the principal grape of the area’s whites with some blend of Malvasia Fina and Bical.Garrafeira white wines require at least 0.5% more alcohol by volume then the 11.5% DOC minimum and at least 6 months aging in oak. The maximum allowable yields for white wine grapes is 80 hl/ha.
Douro is a wine region centered on the Douro River in the Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro region. It is sometimes referred to as the Alto Douro (upper Douro), as it is located some distance upstream from Porto, sheltered by mountain ranges from coastal influence. The region has Portugal’s highest wine classification as a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC).
While the region is associated primarily with Port wine production, the Douro produces just as much table wine (non-fortified wines) as it does fortified wine. The non-fortified wines are typically referred to as “Douro wines.”
The style of wines produced in the Douro range from light, Bordeaux style claret to rich Burgundian style wines aged in new oak.
The principal grape varieties of the Douro region include the black grapes Bastardo, Mourisco Tinto, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz (the same as Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional, and the white grapes Donzelinho Branco, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, and Viosinho.
A large number of grape varieties are grown in the Douro region, most of them local Portuguese grapes. For a long time, the grape varieties grown in the Douro were not very well studied. Vineyards of mixed plantation were the norm, and most of the time, the vineyard owners didn’t know which grape varieties they were growing. A pioneering effort were made in the 1970s which identified Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Cão and Tinta Barroca as the prime dark-skinned grape varieties. Tinta Amarela and the teinturier Sousão has later come to be included among the varieties that attract the most interest. This work was important for creating the new wave of top Douro wines and has also led to a greater focus on the grape varieties that go into Port wine. Most top quintas now replant with single-variety vineyards and focus on a limited number of varieties, but older, mixed vineyards will remain in production for many decades to come.
Tejo, until 2009 named Ribatejo, is a Portuguese wine region covering the same areas as the Ribatejo Province. It takes its name from the river Tejo (Tagus). The entire region is entitled to use the Vinho Regional designation Tejo VR, while some areas are also classified at the higher Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) level under the designation Ribatejo DOC. VR is similar to the French vin de pays and DOC to the French AOC.
Located between the Lisboa and Alentejo VRs, the region is dominated by the influence of the Tagus river. The river moderates the region’s climate, making it more temperate than other areas of Portugal. Vineyards are planted on the fertile alluvial plains along the river and can be prone to producing excessive yields.
In 2009, the region was renamed from Ribatejo to Tejo, the same name as the river flowing through the region, as part of a drive to increase the wine region’s international reputation. However, the DOC has kept its name Ribatejo, which removed the previous problem of having the same name applied to wines at two different levels of classification.
Vinho Verde is a Portuguese wine from the Minho region in the far north of the country. Vinho Verde isn’t a grape varietal. The name literally means “green wine,” but translates as “young wine,” as opposed to mature wine. It may be red, white or rosé, and it is meant to be consumed within a year of bottling.
The region is characterized by its many small growers, which numbered more than 30,000 as of 2005. Many of these growers train their vines high off the ground, up trees, fences, and even telephone poles so that they can cultivate vegetable crops below the vines that their families may use as a food source. Most countries limit the use of the term Vinho Verde to only those wines that come from the Minho region in Portugal. In Europe, this principle is enshrined in the European Union by Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.
The “Vinho Verde Region” was demarcated by the law of September 18, 1908 and a decree of October 1 of the same year. The regulations controlling production were largely set in 1929, with recognition as a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) in 1984. The DOC is overseen by the Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes (“Wine Commission of the Vinho Verde Region”).
There are currently nearly 35,000 hectares of Vinho verde vineyards, making up 15% of the total in Portugal. There are 30,599 producers, down from 72,590 in 1981.
Portuguese wine is the result of traditions introduced to the region by ancient civilizations, such as the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, and mostly the Romans. Portugal started to export its wines to Rome during the Roman Empire. Modern exports developed with trade to England after the Methuen Treaty in 1703. From this commerce a wide variety of wines started to be grown in Portugal. And, in 1758, the first wine-producing region of the world, the Região Demarcada do Douro was created under the orientation of Marquis of Pombal, in the Douro Valley. Portugal has two wine producing regions protected by UNESCO as World Heritage: the Douro Valley Wine Region (Douro Vinhateiro) and Pico Island Wine Region (Ilha do Pico Vinhateira). Portugal has a large variety of native breeds, producing a very wide variety of different wines with distinctive personality.
Romans did much to expand and promote viticulture in their settlements in the province of Lusitania (mainly modern south Portugal). Wines were produced across the territory for both local consumption as well as export to Rome.
During the Reconquista in the 12th and 13th centuries, with the populating (povoamento) of the conquered territories, areas due to religion the Arabs reduced wine production. During this period, some new varieties were added to the ancient ones, from Burgundy came the French varieties. And during the period of discoveries, Henry the Navigator brought to the newly discovered island of Madeira the Moscatel and Malvasia from the Greek Island of Crete. In the Reign of King Carlos, the Região Demarcada do Vinho Verde and the Região Demarcada do Dão among Colares, Carcavelos, Setúbal, and Madeira were created. In 1979, Bairrada was added and in 1980 the Algarve region (Lagoa, Lagos, Portimão, and Tavira) was finally demarcated. In 1998, the Alentejo region was demarked by the gathering several smaller demarked regions created in 1995.
For most American wine lovers Portuguese wine means Port, the rich fortified Portugal wine made in the hot, dry Douro Valley in the northern part of the country. But the past decade has witnessed a greater flow of high-quality table wines, mostly red, into the U.S. market.
In fact, Portugal has long been a reliable source for somewhat rustic but satisfying red wines that seldom exceeded $15 on American retail shelves. Most wines from Portugal’s Dão region, together with Alentejo, the country’s deepest source for quality red Portuguese wines outside the Douro, were under $10 until recently and still seldom exceed $20, even those from the top producers. The majority of today’s new Portuguese table wines are made in a more modern, fruit-driven style, with emphasis on ripe dark berry and plum flavors, often complemented (in some instances bullied) by lavish oak spice but less earthy and leathery than more traditional examples. Many of these new wines are priced rather ambitiously, so it remains to be seen how warmly they will be accepted by American wine drinkers and other export markets.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay enjoyed something of a vogue in Portugal. But despite the fact that there are scattered plantings around the country, as well as a handful of successful bottlings from these varieties, they have made limited impact on Portugal’s wine scene. On the contrary, today’s most interesting wines rely almost exclusively on indigenous grapes or on those of Iberian origin, such as Alvarinho (Albariño in Spain) and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo in Spain).