Touriga Nacional is Portugal’s best-known red grape variety, one that many consider to be the country’s finest. It is vital in Port production, and is also a popular option for producing dry red wine in its native Dão region. Touriga Nacional is also grown in Australia, California and South Africa, though it’s true home is within Portugal, where it contributes to many of the country’s best bottlings and most cellar-worthy wines.
Touriga Nacional is a low-yielding vine and produces very small, concentrated and think-skinned berries. In the vineyard, Touriga Nacional requires extensive pruning and careful vineyard management. Touriga Nacional wines have deep color, very high tannins, a large concentration of fruit, and often a distinctive floral character on the nose. They are not shy on intensity or character, and, when well balanced, are ideal wines to collect and cellar for medium- to long-term aging.
Touriga Nacional remains a crucial component in Port wine production. The fruit for Port must be grown in Portugal’s Douro Valley. Though it is not the most widely planted grape—that would be Touriga Franca, formerly known as Touriga Francesca—it is one of the quintessential Port varieties.
The Touriga Nacional grape is thought to have originated in the mountainous Dão region, 80 kilometers south of the Douro Valley. These old vineyards were restored in the 1990s, when considerable new plantings of Touriga Nacional were introduced to the region. Touriga Nacional wine from Dão may be single variety, or blended with other grapes such as Alfrocheiro, Jaen and Tinta Roriz. These wines are deep ruby-colored, with intense dark-fruit flavors and elegant structure.
Besides fortified Ports and Dão reds, Touriga Nacional is also used for red table wines from the Douro region. While dry wine production remains small in comparison to Port, these are high-quality wines and worth seeking out. Touriga Nacional may be blended here alongside Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. They are typically full-bodied wines, with intense tannins, bold black-fruit flavors and great longevity.
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