Touriga Nacional is a dark-skinned grape variety that is currently very fashionable and is widely believed to produce the finest red wines of Portugal. Extensively planted in the Portugal's northern Dao and Douro wine regions, the variety is a key ingredient in both dry red wines and the fortified wines of Oporto (Port).
In many ways, Touriga Nacional is Portugal's answer to France's Cabernet Sauvignon. Both varieties display bold dark-fruit flavors, often with hints of spice, leather and violet. Like Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Nacional has firm tannins, is expressive as a varietal wine and shows great aging potential. As a blend, though, it really comes into its own, which is fortunate in Portugal where blends are de rigueur.
In Douro, Touriga Nacional is extremely important in the production of Port, even though it makes up just a tiny fraction of the grapes grown there. Here it is blended with up to 80 other varieties (the Port blend is nothing if not complex), the most important of which are Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinto Cao. Many vineyards in Douro are co-planted, and it is not uncommon for a grower not to know for sure what is growing in the vineyard.
Before phylloxera devastated the vineyards of the Iberian Peninsula, Touriga Nacional was much more widely planted. It is said at one time to have covered around 90 percent of the vineyard area in Dao, but due to its low yields it was largely replaced with more-productive varieties. Modern clones of Touriga Nacional, which number in the hundreds, are more generous with their yields, and improved viticultural techniques have helped to increase the variety's commercial viability without compromising its character.
In Australia, Touriga Nacional is known simply as "Touriga", but in California this abbreviation generally refers to the variety's offspring, Touriga Franca. The Australians were producing Port-style wines long before Shiraz gained traction as a dry table wine and it makes sense that Touriga Nacional has been turned to with quality Australian expressions of dry wine in mind. Yarra Yering's Dry Red No. 3 is a notable example of Touriga Nacional's role in New World wine.
Synonyms include: Mortagua, Preto de Mortagua, Azal Espanhol.
Food matches for Touriga Nacional include:
- Grass-fed sirloin steak (dry)
- North African goat tagine (dry)
- Chocolate or custard tart (fortified)