Portugal // Coimbra and the Beira Litoral //

The Dão valley wine route

The route northeast from Coimbra along the IP3 sweeps through the valley of the Rio Dão, a name synonymous in Portugal with wine. The Dão is a tributary of the Mondego and flows through the heart of the demarcated region where Dão wines are produced, principally some of the country’s finest reds. It’s a hilly, granite region, cold and rainy in the winter, hot and dry in the summer – where they are not covered with terraced vineyards, the slopes are thickly wooded with pine and eucalyptus, subject (as in much of central Portugal) to occasional ravaging forest fires during the sweltering summers.

The small market town of Santa Comba Dão, a little over 50km from Coimbra, marks the start of the wine region. If it’s known at all in Portugal, it’s as the home town of António de Oliveira Salazar (1889–1970).The Portuguese dictator, leader of an authoritarian regime that lasted forty years, was born (and is buried) in the nearby village ofVimeiro.There’s not much to the town itself, save a very small historic centre and some grandstand views of the tumbling river and the Aguieira barragem (reservoir). However, you can explore the surroundings on the disused Dão valley rail line from Santa Comba Dão to Viseu, which has been re-engineered as the Ecopista do Dão, a 52-kilometre “green” cycle-way and footpath (the longest in the country).

Many of the wine estates fall within a triangle formed by Santa Comba Dão and the divergent IP3 (to Viseu) and IC12/N234 (to Mangualde), while the Dão wine region also stretches beyond Viseu into the Beira Alta. Although there are no overwhelming points of interest, you can spend a happy day pottering through small country towns, following winery signs on the Rota do Vinho do Dão. Details of those open to the public for tours and tastings are given on the website http://www.cvrdao.pt, and there’s more information (in English) on the regional tourism site http://www.turismodaolafoes.com.

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