Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories about Allison Levine’s visit to this region in Portugal.
My recent travels to Portugal took me to the Dão region for the first time.
Over the past few weeks, I have been sharing my discovery of this special region, from understanding the terroir to the transition from field blends to single-varietal wines to the wonderful white wine unique to the Dão, Encruzado.
I shared the stories of Julia Kemper Wines, Quinta dos Roques and Casa da Passarella. As I finish up my series, I want to introduce some of the other wineries that I visited while on my journey of Discovering the Dão.
Established in 1881 as a family estate, Boas Quintas translates to “good estates.” Award-winning winemaker Nuno Cancela de Abreu is the fourth generation of the Cancela de Abreu family.
The estate is located in the corner of the Dão closest to the Atlantic Ocean, however it is protected from the ocean influence due to the Buçaco mountain range. The property is surrounded by the forest, filled with eucalyptus trees. They are located in the middle of nature and want to maintain it. As members of the European Conservation Network, Boas Quintas is focused on biodiversity and do not want to be interventionists. With a diurnal shift of more than 30 degrees, as well as sandy, granitic soils, the resulting wines are fresh and elegant.
Founded in 2012 by Paulo Santos, the winery is based in Nelas, where Santos was born. With a love of wine born in his childhood, he saw the potential of the Dão and purchased an old agricultural company. Translated, Caminhos Cruzados means “crossroads,” which inspired the modern winery designed by Porto architect Nuno Pinto Cardoso. The winery is quite striking to see as it is a large concrete structure that looks like a large “X,” sort of like intersections crossing. With a total of 40 hectares under vine, Caminhos Cruzados’ main brand is called Titular.
Casa da Ínsua
A Baroque style manor-house built in 1780 by Brazilian Governor Luís de Albuquerque de Mello Pereira e Cáceres, Casa da Ínsua is located in the center of the Dão region near the city of Viseu. Wine production dates to 1908, and they are the only winery in the region allowed to use French varieties in the DOC. They use Semillon in their white wine blend and Cabernet Sauvignon in their red wine blend. In addition to 30 hectares of vineyards, they also grow Bravo de Esmolfe DOP apples and raise Bordaleira sheep to produce Queijo Serra da Estrela DOP, the oldest cheese in Portugal, dating to the first century. The manor house of Casa da Ínsua today is a Parador, the only Parador outside of Spain, with 35 guest rooms.
CEO and winemaker Carlos Lucas has been making wine in the Dão, Douro, Alentejo and Vinho Verdes regions for more than 25 years. He first came to the Dão region in the 1990s and was a driving force in the improvement of the wines in the region.
“I am an architect of wines," Lucas said. "I travel a lot and study the markets and can understand what people want. I make the fashion in the regions.”
After working at the Cooperativa de Nelas Winery and Dão Sul Winery, Lucas founded Magnum Vinhos in 2011. One of the trends that Lucas started was producing sparkling wine in the Dão. He made the first sparkling wine in the region in 1992 with Encruzado despite the Dão Association of Wineries claiming that the Dão is not a region for sparkling wine. Today there are numerous producers making sparkling wines and Lucas is also making a sparkling Touriga Nacional Brut Nature.
Quinta da Fata
Located in the center of the Dão region, Quinta da Fata is an 18th century house surrounded by 16 acres of vineyards. Fata is the name of the local village where the house is located. The house was the home of the grandfather of the current owner Eurico and his wife, Maria Amaral.
Eurico and Amaral worked in Lisbon and used the house as a country holiday home. Upon Maria’s retirement from pharmaceuticals at the age of 52, they relocated to the house with the idea of starting a bed and breakfast. The vineyards were first replanted in 1999 and their first vintage was in 2003. Eurico and Maria, who have been married for 55 years, are a charming couple who welcome you into their home when you come for a tasting.
Exploring the Dão region for the first time was about discovery and I hope that I was able to share that with you. And, more importantly, if you are planning a trip to Portugal, I hope you are inspired to visit the Dão and discover it for yourself.