Dao is walled off from the heat of the Douro by the Serra da Nave on its northern border. The Serra da Estrela’s southeast alignment and Serra do Açor along the southern border perform a similar function deflecting hot winds that roll in from the plains of Spain and Alentejo. Completing this mountainous defensive wall, the Serra do Caramulo holds back the Atlantic rains that make grape growing so much riskier in Barriada directly to the east. 

Within this bowl shaped configuration there are a wide range of micro-climates strongly influenced by relatively steep valleys carved out by the Mondego, Alva and Dão Rivers and their numerous tributaries. Vineyards either hug terraced slopes or flow along rolling hills following the rivers’ curves making site exposure a major factor in ripening. Most vineyards grow at around 400-500 meters, with extremes ranging between 200-700. Between elevation and river driven humidity, Dao’s wide diurnal temperature shifts (20º+) ensure both white and red wines are endowed ample natural acidity. Dao wines are renowned throughout Portugal for their ‘freshness.’

There are a wide range of microclimates within Dao. Its hottest, driest spots lie within a triangular plateau between the towns of Viseu, Mangualde and Nelas. This area favours late ripening Touriga Nacional and fuller bodied, bolder red styles. The cooler, wetter, more elevated transition corridors running alongside the mountains (Tondela to Mortagua to Tabua, surrounding Penalva do Castello, Gouveia to Seia, etc.) favour whites and more aromatic red styles (Alfrocheiro, Jaen, Rufet) and shape Touriga with more florals and linearity.

Dao’s soils are granite dominated sands; lean, free draining and relatively infertile, forcing vines to struggle. Often laced with bits of feldspar, quartz and mica they tend to sparkle back at you when walking through vineyards. One has a sense there is a lot of interesting ‘terroir’ waiting to be discovered and defined in Dao’s future.

dao's soil mix of granite and quartz