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Grape Profile – Touriga Nacional

Common Names: Touriga Nacional, MortáguaA small berry varietal capable of producing dark tannic wines, rising to become the star player in the historic Port wines of Northern Portugal.

Port wine is typically described as having an inky, dense and dark color with a powerful bouquet of dried fruits and spices while having the ability to last decades when properly stored. This amazing wine’s ability to age effortlessly relies on the blend of many grapes, the most famous of which is Touriga Nacional. Anyone who has tasted a wine from the Douro valley in Portugal has most likely tasted Touriga Nacional, but few are familiar with its name. Why? Simply because Port wine does not have to list the varietals used in its production. However, you may be a bit more savvy of its existence in the red wine produced in the Dão region situated just south of the Demarcated zone of the Douro Valley, which at times is primarily composed of only Touriga Nacional.

Ask any wine expert and they will most likely acknowledge the importance of Touriga in the production of Port wine, but ask whether or not they should be used in table wines and you might get mixed results. Why is this? For the most part, I think it comes down to their intensity. Naturally high in tannins, and difficult to control in the vineyards, Touriga can give any winemaker a small headache. However, there are those who are persistent and look past the small difficulties in order to produce wines with intoxicating aromas and rich flavors of blueberries and violet blossoms.

This last point was illustrated perfectly the other night when a friend of Gabriella’s and I sat down to taste a bottle of Touriga from the Dão region. What made this interesting was the fact that without prompting, my fellow tasters found an herbal quality to the chocolate aromas of the nose, but were unable to discern exactly what the specific aroma was. It wasn’t until we introduced a piece of of a violet infused chocolate from our favorite shop in Madrid, Sampaka, that they were able to pinpoint the exact aroma. However, picking out violet is not the easiest thing to do without having had a recent sniff of it, but what was interesting is that the wine and chocolate had so much in common. Not only did the violet come through the wine beautifully, but the dark chocolate with its rich tannins and earthy richness also paired wonderfully with the wine. Though having the chocolate infused with chocolate on hand was a coincidence it turned out to be an eye opener.

After finishing the chocolate, we continued to discern other flavors imprinted in our sensory memory, such as blueberry, earthy (loamy), violets, dark fruits and black chocolate. In the end this accidental experiment taught us a considerable amount, not only did we learn some of the traits of Touriga Nacional, but we also learned that it has the potential to produce very nice table wines.

Port wine is King in Portugal, thanks to Touriga Nacional, but I challenge you to step away for a moment and search out a table wine made only from this grape. I would suggest a bottle from the Dão region, or even further south into the Alentejo region, judging for yourself if this Grape can “go it alone”!

Till soon,
Ryan Opaz

  • 2001 Quinta de Garrida Dão – Portugal, Dão (3/21/2006)
    Deep purplish red in color. The nose shows some sour barnyard that blows off to reveal blue and black berries followed by floral notes of violets. In the mouth fine tannins with a medium acidity balance this wine that remains soft and velvety in the mouth. Flavors of light spice, blueberries and that haunting violet wisp along as the finish lingers. Tasty, fully mature, and a decent value.

    4 grape
Jancis Robinson's - Vines, Grapes, and Wines

By the way the best book to learn about grape varietals from around the world is, Jancis Robinson’s – Vines, Grapes, and Wines, . Pick up a copy from Amazon for yourself and help support Catavino to grow.

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