Portugal's Touriga Nacional

Wine Profile: Portugal's Touriga Nacional
Wine Profile : Portugal's Touriga Nacional

The Douro Valley is one region producing Touriga Nacional

Profile series examines a particular wine varietal and tells you everything you need to know about it. Well, maybe not everything. We skim over the especially boring details (soil type) and spare you the pompous adjectives (“brawny”) to focus on what matters to men: where to find it, what food to pair it with, and how much it is. And to get you started on exploring the varietal for yourself, we point you to some specific, good value bottle recommendations.

“Touriga Nacional” might not ring a bell, but we’re about to change that for you. If you’re going to learn one thing about Portuguese wine (which is well worth learning about), you’ll want to familiarize yourself with Touriga Nacional, Portugal’s “national grape.” This distinctive red wine grape has traditionally been a key component in fine ports, and increasingly, it is making its way into dry table wines.

Portugal's wine pedigree

Although port wine springs to mind in relation to Portugal, the country actually has a very long history of non-fortified wine production. There is evidence that Portuguese wine was being exported to England in the early 12th century, and the appellation system of the Douro region, used to identify where the grapes were grown and implemented to protect superior wines from inferior ones, is the oldest such system in the world, created nearly 200 years before that of France.

In recent years, Portuguese wines have been rediscovered, and their popularity is on the rise. Vinophiles are catching on to the slew of native Portuguese grape breeds (estimated to be about 500), which have yet to be exported en masse to the New World in the way that Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons have been. These native grapes produce unique wines -- generally quite reasonably priced -- that wine lovers may bypass simply because they do not recognize these different varietals.

About Touriga Nacional

Touriga Nacional is a relatively tiny blue-black grape produced in very small quantities by vines that have a tendency toward rampant growth if not regularly pruned. Because the yield is smaller than that of any other commercial grape variety, and because the vines are so unruly, some winemakers steer clear of Touriga Nacional. It’s important to understand that, where this grape is concerned, quality, not quantity, is of the essence. This is one reason why we typically find the grape blended with other varietals rather than all on its own.

Touriga Nacional plays an important part in any blend, however, as it lends structure, body, texture, and warmth. It is full of strong tannins and bright acidity, two factors that help to increase the longevity of wine, and add to its complexity over time. Despite the grape’s tannic quality, Portuguese reds blended with Touriga Nacional tend to be soft on the palate and easy to drink.

What to pair with Portugal's Touriga Nacional...

How to pair Touriga Nacional

Touriga Nacional produces dark and aromatic wines that can taste richly fruity and savory at the same time, often with notes of flowers and tea. The floral notes have been likened to the scent of purple violet blossoms, and when the Touriga Nacional is featured in high concentration, this aroma can be quite overpowering. This is another reason why it is often used sparingly in blends. Other aromas of note include dark berries -- namely rich, ripe blueberries, blackberries and plum -- as well as dark chocolate. There can be a bit of spice, but such flavors are secondary to the fruity and floral notes.

Due to the range of blends in which Touriga Nacional can be found -- mixed with everything from native Portuguese varietals to international standards like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, it is tough to recommend the ideal pairings for it, yet the fact that it shows up in such a range of blends should be taken as a sign of its overall versatility and flexibility. It can also be enjoyed on its own, without food.

Try it with:
  • Rich, mature cheeses
  • Robust meats, like roast kid, steak or grilled rack of pork
  • Sausages
  • Grilled vegetables

Touriga Nacional prices

Aside from their deliciously distinctive taste, one of the best things about Portuguese wines -- and not just those featuring Touriga Nacional -- is how incredibly affordable they are. Decent bottles can be found in the $10 to $16 range, and you can pick up quite a fine bottle for under $50. Next time you’re looking to pick up a bottle of red wine, walk past all the familiar Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons and Syrahs to see what the Portuguese section has in store.

Touriga Nacional recommendations

Quinta de Roriz Reserva Douro 2002
$29.99 at Wine.com
This dry table wine, now aged to perfection, is characterized by ripe dark fruit flavors and a silky finish. Wine Spectator gave it 90 points, and it ranked No. 76 on the Wine.com 100 of 2007.

Quinta de Bons-Ventos 2006
At $12, this wine from the Estremadura region offers great value and is a versatile and easy-to-drink table wine.

Quinta Do Mouro 2004
A “splurge” at $45, and worth every penny, this blend of four varietals from the Alentejano region contains both Touriga Nacional and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Touriga nacional takeaway tips
  • Touriga Nacional is a key component in fine ports.
  • Touriga Nacional, often blended with other varietals, provides structure and body.
  • These wines will be right at home with Portuguese-style dishes -- think grilled meats and vegetables.
From: http://uk.askmen.com/fine_living/keywords/wine.html
Portugal's Touriga Nacional


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