Friday, October 8, 2021

Grape Spotlight: Portuguese Dão Encruzado

Courtesy of Vinhos Dão Wine

The Dão viticultural region is located in north-central Portugal and takes its name from the Dão river, along which the majority of the region's vineyards are located. It is enclosed by four mountain ranges which act as natural barriers from the coastal rains that originate from the Atlantic and the strong continental winds emanating from Spain. Vineyards are generally planted between 1300 to 1600 feet with higher elevations reaching 2600 feet. According to, "This elevation raises the vines out of the valley's shadows and towards all-important sunshine, allowing them to maximize their photosynthesis time during the day. It also increases diurnal temperature variation, helping the grapes cool down at night, which they must do to retain the acids so desirable in wine".

In 1908, the Dão became the second (following Porto) formal Portuguese wine region which defined the general conditions for the production and trade of Dão Wine. And more recently the C.V.R. Dão was established in 1987 right after Portugal formally joined the EU. This organization is responsible for "ensuring authenticity and quality by strictly controlling the production and marketing of the wines" and certifies and authenticates wines with Seals of Guarantee. The CVR also created four quality designations listed in the box.

Selected Harvest: With harvest year, with outstanding organoleptic characteristics and with more than 1% of the volume of the legal limit.
Reserve: With harvest year, with outstanding organoleptic characteristics and with more than 0.5% of the volume of the legal limit.
Garrafeira: With harvest year, with outstanding organoleptic characteristics;
> Red wines: 36 months, 12 months in bottle
> White wines: 12 months, 6 months in bottle
Dão Nobre: With the year of harvest, with very outstanding organoleptic characteristics. Only two to date (one white and one red) – Must score 90 points plus

Red wine grapes are the most prevalent in the Dão, but the finest examples of white wine derive from the Encruzado grape says Wines of Portugal US Ambassador Eugenio Jardim. The grape is planted mainly in the granite hills of the region, buds early, and provides a balance between sugars and acids. Wines made from this grape respond well to lees contact and barrel maturation, both of which help to add complexity to the finished wines. According to, "oak aging, in particular, helps to tame some of Encruzado's more astringent notes, adding softness and nutty, toasty characters to the finished wines". On the downside, Encruzado has a tendency to oxidize quickly if not carefully handled.

During a recent Wines of Portugal tasting, I was able to sample a 100% Encruzado wine that showed why this grape is so prevalent in the Dão. The 2019 Cabriz DOC Dão Encruzado Reserva ($15) was full-bodied, with creamy citrus and texture, while simultaneously showing saline-driven acidity. 25% of the wine was fermented in new French oak barrels with soft toast and 25% in second-use oak barrels. A delicious wine. 

Cabriz is one of the leading brands from Dão and the world’s best seller from that region - thus allowing it to be accessible through Global Wines Portugal.  The primary 38-hectare estate and winery are located between the two main rivers that cross the Dão region, the Mondego and the Dão. 

Looking forward to visiting someday. Cheers. 

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