There is a place in the heart of Portugal that is still unknown by most non-Portuguese, it’s a place full of history and secrets to tell, tradition and perfect conditions to produce some of the most elegant wines in this country, this place is called Dão!
Some of you might recognise the name, and some of you might even have already tried some of the wines from there as it is easy to find a reference of wine from this region in any wine shop or supermarket in Portugal.
The Dão region is one of the oldest wine regions in the country, it was the second one to be recognized as a wine region right after the Douro, for some people also known as the Burgundy from Portugal, why is that?..Well this is what I am going to try to explain to you next.
Located in between some of the highest mountains in Portugal, this valley has a very unique microclimate with wet rainy days during the winter and dry hot summers. This, together with the granite soils, gives this place the natural minerality needed to create as fresh, mineral and elegant wines as the ones produced in Burgundy. Rich, complex and amazing aging capacity, it’s what makes these wines very similar to the ones produced in that amazing French region.
So what is the main difference between these wines and the Burgundy ones?! The grape varieties. Like most of the wine regions in Portugal this is what makes a difference between having a Portuguese wine and something else from another part of the world. Heritage, history and personality are something unique that can not be found in other places except here in Portugal. Grapes like the famous Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Jaen and Tinta Roriz can be found for the reds and for the whites I must highlight the amazing Encruzado among others.
Now, there are no good wines without the people, and I want to tell you about someone I had the chance to meet some time ago. Manuel, a common name but such an amazing personality, a person with a simple approach, kind and generous who has a passion about wines. Manuel has a career in the chemistry industry within a multinational brand and spends his time between Germany and Portugal. He dedicates as much time as possible to his passion of wines in this beautiful property Quinta das Mestras in Santar, near Viseu in the Dão region. Quinta das Mestras is a piece of 15 hectare heaven set between the mountains at 350 meters altitude. Rivers, lakes, early fogs create a magical atmosphere, wildlife with a high environmental concern where fruit trees and vines are growing side by side in harmony. Old vines that were planted in the 90’s with the most traditional grapes I mentioned before, the secret formula for the amazing wines produced at this property.
Red wines with concentration when young but that evolve in the bottle reach a level of elegance like no other in this country. Silky tannins and minerality are always a distinctive characteristic in these wines. As for the whites (this is the birthplace of the incredible Encruzado), they can be fresh and mineral but also develop complexity when fermented and aged in oak casks. Like the reds, the white wines made with this grape in this location can age perfectly once bottled.
Manuel hires the best people to take care of his wines and as this is not his main activity he doesn’t have the pressure of the sales. He gives time to his wines, and this is fundamental for them to be in the best shape when consumed. Different, older vintages are available for reds and whites also, these wines cannot be found in shops or supermarkets, “it’s a wine for friends” he says, and I want to keep that spirit by selling these wines to private buyers only and never place them in shops. Like Manuel I also have my job at the W Algarve hotel and I represent these wines in Algarve with the same passion that Manuel puts into producing them. It is hard to find small “treasures” like these nowadays and share them with passionate people.
Quinta das Mestras acquired this name as in the old days this was the place where the teachers (Mestras) used to stay for accommodation. Today the small granite houses can still be found at the property together with the traces of the Roman occupation. A history and wine that soon can be visited. Indeed in 2023 Manuel will finish his wine tourism project which he looks forward to sharing with visitors.
These wines can be found on my website www.sommelierconcierge.com or directly from Algarve Lifestyle Magazine, my official partner. Wine tastings and events will soon be organized by myself and the magazine to showcase these wines for those interested.