Dao was often described in the 19th Century as the ‘Bourgogne of the South’ and was a preferred wine of Portugal’s kings stretching back deeply into the nations’s early history.

The region maintained a high reputation throughout the early part of the 20th century, but the region's emphasis changing after Dictator Salazar took power in the 1930s. As part his self-sufficiency drive, Salazar decreed that Dao would produce the nation’s wine, eventually legislating that Dao wine had to be produced in and sold only through cooperatives. This mandate blocked private initiative and locked Dao into producing table wines for the common man. By definition those wines had to be cheap and plentiful, leading eventually to cooperatives paying growers for quantity, not quality.  By the 1980s, this one-size-fits-all approach left many Dao wines dilute and indistinct, faint echoes of their former selves. Unfortunately, those wines suggested little of Dao's past and future potential.

EU regulations ended the cooperatives monopoly on production in the late 1980s. This set in motion important post-deregulation developments that gave rise to the re-emergence of quality Dao wine and a modern ‘vigneron’ (grape growers who make their own wine) movement intent on delivering it.

Under the old regime, big companies like Sogrape, Borges and others were unable to produce Dao wines for their portfolios inside Dao. Instead they were forced to buy up finished wines from local coops, which was then blended and bottled outside of the region as DOC wine. After deregulation in 1988, Sogrape (followed by other other giants like Dao Sul and Borges later) shifted their production bases inside Dao. Intent on maximizing quality, they began buying grapes directly from producers, rewarding higher quality grapes with progressively higher prices. Suddenly faced with competition, coops were forced to set higher standards for themselves or face extinction.

After deregulation in 1989, Quinta da Bica’s Joao Sacadura Botte was the first small producer to pull away from the cooperative movement and make his own wine. Álvaro Castro of Quinta da Pellada left the following year. During the early 1990s Luis Lourenço of Quinta das Roques and others joined this growing movement of independent producers intent on creating high quality wine.

Today there are dozens of small, medium and large sized wineries that are reconnecting the relationship between terroir, grape growing and wine making, and how all this plays through vintage and sub-regional variation and wine styles. The region has clearly entered a new golden age.