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Home | Red Varieties | Touriga Nacional - The Tempranillo o . . .




Touriga Nacional - The Tempranillo of Portugal

Portugal has the largest population of indigenous grape varieties in the world – 350 to 500 unique varieties depending on who is doing the counting.  Rising to the top in popularity is Touriga Nacional, made famous for its use in the production of Port.  Touriga Nacional is a red grape, from the Vitis Vinifera species, and is known for very intense floral flavors, acidity and tannins.  This strength in the grape variety comes from its genetic makeup, and the conditions under which it is grown.

Touriga Nacional is among the lowest yielding grape varieties in the world.  An acre of Touriga vines will produce 4-5 tons of grapes in a good year, compared to the 9.1 tons per acre average for all red varieties.  The grape bunches are very small and almost invisible on the vines (see image below).  The leaves however, are very prolific, and must be severely pruned to be kept under control.  Each vine will produce only a few bunches of black grapes.  The low yield and small grapes however, are not without their benefits.  The high skin to pulp ratio adds to the intensity of the fruit flavors and strength of the tannins.  By itself potentially overpowering, Touriga Nacional is often blended with Touriga Francesa, Tinto Roriz (Tempranillo), or Merlot to produce a richer, softer blend.




Where is Touriga Nacional Grown?

Photo Courtesy of Graham’s Port
Photo Courtesy of Graham’s Port

Portugal – The Iberian Peninsula pretty much owns the market for Touriga Nacional.  The grape is most prevalent in Portugal, in the Douro and Dao regions in the northern part of the country.  The vineyards are inland, away from the cooling effects of the Atlantic to the west.  Despite its popularity and name recognition, Touriga Nacional is nowhere near the most commonly planted red grape variety, accounting for less than 10% of grape production in Portugal. There are currently 9,000 acres of Touriga Nacional vineyards in Portugal.

Touriga Nacional is thought to have been named after the village in the Douro valley of a similar name (Tourigo) and has many aliases.  Among them, Montagua, Bical Tinto, Mortagua, Mortagua Preto,  Touriga Fina, Tourigo Antigo, and Tourigo do Dao. 

United States – A few vineyards are growing small amounts of Touriga Nacional primarily in Southern California where the climate can be hot and mimic that of the Douro region of Portugal.  At least one winery is also producing Touriga Nacional in Pennsylvania (Paradocx in Landenberg), and several wineries in the Texas Hill Country AVA also produce small amounts.

Argentina – Familia Zuccardi were the first wine makers to plant the Touriga Nacional grape in the Santa Rosa region of Mendoza in 2000.  Although Zuccardi's “Innovacion” is a single variety wine, several vintners in the Uco Valley are experimenting with blends of Touriga Nacional and Malbec.  The Touriga Nacional adds structure to the somewhat milder mannered Malbec.

Wine Profile

Touriga Nacional is a big wine, lots of tannin, lots of alcohol, concentrated fruit flavors, and lots of acidity.  Combine all of this incorrectly and you can easily wind up with an overwhelming out of balance red.  Done correctly however, the tannins and acidity play well together, and the strength of the fruit flavors results in a big but refreshing vibrant wine.

 

 

Smell

 

 

Taste

 

Feel

 

Price

 

Violet

Very floral

Blackberry

Blueberry

Black pepper

Fresh earth

Mulberry

Plum

Dried fruits

 

 

Dry  

 

Moderate to high acidity levels.

Moderate to high alcohol levels (13% - 14.5%)

Tannins abound.

In the best Touriga Nacional wines the high acidity offsets the tannins resulting in a well-balanced wine.

 

 

Touriga Nacional as a single variety wine can be a challenge to locate in some wine shops.  Most Touriga Nacional is in red blends.  Single variety wines are available for $15 - $30.

 

 

 

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·  Nebbiolo- Out of the fog
·  Tempranillo
·  Cabernet Franc- The Underappreciated Elder
·  Negroamaro -- A trulli magnificent grape
·  Pinotage - Overcoming Adversity
·  Malbec - The Happy Transplant
·  Sangiovese -- What's in a name?
·  Portugal - Last stop before the sail
·  Syrah/Shiraz- The grape with two names
·  Pinot Noir- The Fickle Phenomenon
·  Zinfandel - The Trail Blazer
·  Merlot - Cabernet Sauvignon's Fruitier Brother


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