Surrounded by the mountains of Caramulo, Buçaco, Nave and Estrela, the Dão region is totally protected from icy winds, summer rain from the Atlantic, and even continental storms. Within its mountain walls, Dão is full of contrasts: warmer in the west, cooler in the north and east; gently rolling hills, deep valleys, forests and mountain slopes; damp, cold winters, and summers that are generally sunny, warm and dry. Yet in late summer, the days become rapidly cooler, allowing for long, slow ripening and the development of complex flavors.
The vineyards lie high in the hills, at 1,200 to 1,500 feet, even sometimes as high as 2,400 feet, on decomposed schist or granite. Vineyards need to be carefully sited for best exposure to the sun to ensure perfect ripeness. This gives Dão wines an innate balance of lovely, bright, mineral acidity, wonderful fragrance, character and intensity.
Once upon a time, many Dão wines lost much of their elegant, fruity character by excessive ageing in old barrels. With shorter ageing in today’s newer oak barrels, or even unoaked wines, the natural quality can shine through. Top red estate wines tend to be composed by at least half of the star variety Touriga Nacional, and maybe blended with Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz or possibly a few other local varietals.
Not all Dão is red. The whites are improving (especially from the Encruzado grape), but only in the high vineyards around Tondela do whites outnumber reds. There are also excellent Dão rosés and sparkling wines.
Most vineyards have been in the same family for generations. More than 30,000 grape-growers, some with very tiny plots, produce about half the DOC grapes. Co-operatives are very important here; nowadays they employ modern technology. But the revival in quality was led by individual producers, both large and small.
Cabriz was founded in the early ’90s and grew to become the best-selling wine from the Dăo region in the world. The winery also offers sparkling, white and rosé wines as well as higher end red wines.
Origin: Dăo, Portugal
Varietals: Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Alfrocheiro
Sustainability: sustainable practices
Suggested Retail Price: $8.00
The wine shows a vivid, ruby color. The nose offers ripe fruit with some mineral notes. It is medium bodied with good balance and polished tannins enrobed in lush, fresh red fruit.
Suggested food pairings: grilled fish, sausages, vegetables, chicken, salads, soft cheeses.
> For more information, visit the Cabriz official website