Fourth of July is time for friends and family to get together and enjoy a wide array of festive summer dishes. While traditional beverages like lemonade and cold beer have long been the favored drinks at Independence Day celebrations, American tastes have matured in recent decades to include wines from around the world.
With so many different kinds of salads, meats and fish served at summer gatherings, a good host is always on the lookout for a tasty wine that will complement any dish. Both white and red wines from Portugal’s Dao region have emerged as a good choice for such occasions.
Versatile wines from Portugal’s Dao region make a great choice for festivities on the Fourth
Flavorful yet not over-powering, Dao red or white table wines complement fish, steaks and other popular summertime fare
Located in the mountains of northern Portugal, the Dao region is known for producing well-balanced and food-friendly wines. The whites tend to be crisp and fragrant while the reds range from light, peppery and spicy to more full bodied and fruity.
Dao winemakers, like many in Portugal, shy away from grape varieties well-known in America, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and instead incorporate a delicious blend of regional varieties into each wine. The bulk of Dao wines are red and can be made from up to nine different grapes. Portugal’s top red grape variety, Touriga Nacional, which on its own lends a peppery flavor with a forest fruit character, must account for at least 20 percent of any one wine. Other popular varieties include Jaen, Tinta Pinheirqa and the rather unfortunately named Bastardo. The Encruzado is the leading white grape, and blends with this variety produce refreshingly acidic and fruity wine with subtle hints of nutty oak.
The result of this focus on regional blends is a variety of unique and complex wines that are never overpowering.
The Dao is bordered by mountains, which protects the grapes from the fickle weather off of the Atlantic. The best vineyards are located in the region’s foothills, where the altitude yields heavy rain in the winter and helps temper the heat in the hot and dry summers. The granite soil there also lends the wine a good acidity that helps them age.
As with the rest of Portugal, the Dao winemaking industry has benefitted from investment in new technology and the lifting of restrictive wine laws. Until recently, almost all grapes from the Dao had to be processed by big co-operatives. These large winemaking organizations made their fair share of quality wines, but provided no incentive for growers to excel in the vineyard by paying them according to quantity of grapes produced, not their quality. The easing of restrictions in the last decade has encouraged some of the country’s top wine producers to invest in the Dao region, leading to more top quality wines.
The Callabriga Tinto, an affordable bottle at $12, has received high-praise for its tannic structure and makes a great complement to steak or lamb. The Quinto Do Cabriz vineyard has also been producing quality reds and whites that complement a range of foods from shrimp to beef. Bottles from Quinto Do Cabriz can be found for under $10.