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The Touriga Nacional Grape


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About Touriga Nacional

(Synonyms: Azal Espanhol, Bical Tinto, Mortágua, Mortágua Preto, Preto Mortágua, Touriga, Touriga Fina, Tourigao, Tourigo Antigo, Tourigo do Dão, Tourigo Fina, Turiga.)

Background

Map showing Portugal

Touriga Nacional is a red-wine grape originating in Portugal, probably in the Dão region. It is generally considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class red-wine grapes (those in boldface in the varietals list to the left of the page); in part, that derives from its use as a major grape in the making of Port, but it is also a world-class table-wine grape.

As is usually the case with Old World wines, table wines based on Touriga Nacional were rarely if ever labelled by the grape, being given regional appellation names (notably Douro and Dão); in the modern, internationalized wine world, varietal bottlings, often monovarietal, are now fairly common. Touriga Nacional has been promoted as the "national grape of Portugal", a policy some strongly favor and others think misguided. That second view arises because, one, it draws attention away from some other fine Portugese grape types; and two, it is not clear whether Touriga Nacional works as well as a monovarietal as it does blended. The grape has been analogized to Bordeaux's Cabernet Sauvignon, with (per Jancis Robinson) the Touriga Francesca grape playing the role of Bordeaux's Cabernet Franc.

The Touriga Nacional grape is small, and so has a high ratio of surface to volume. Since skin contributes much to the resultant wines, Touriga Nacional tends to be dark, strong-bodied, and intense in both aroma and flavors, with high tannin levels. A quality often associated with the wines is that of flowers, most notably violets; anyone who has had a good port has experienced many of the qualities of Touriga Nacional. Touriga Nacional wines typically age very well in bottle.

Factoid: Touriga Nacional is rarely grown outside Portugal, but small plantings are appearing in some of the emerging wine regions of the U.S. such as Texas and Virginia.


Some Descriptions of Touriga Nacional Wines


Some Touriga Nacionals to Try

(About this list.)

The problem with recommendations is that a great fraction of the wines casually described by retailers as "Touriga Nacional" are blends, sometimes not even predominantly TN. Worse (from the classification point of view), some bottlings are a blend in one vintage and a monovarietal in others. Now many people think that TN works best in blends, and we have no quarrel with that view, but the idea of these little lists is to give you a chance to sample the pure quill, so that you can decide what you think of the varietal in question. After that, you can, if you like, go on to sample blends as you encounter them, having some idea what the varietal—in this case, the Touriga Nacional—component is adding to the total.

Moreover, while reasonably priced Touriga Nacional abounds, if we filter by available reviews, the field narrows considerably. Here is what we came up with.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
DFJ Vinhos "Grand'Arte" Touriga Nacional
(Estremadura - Lisboa, Portugal. This is not the "Special Selection" or other special bottling.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

The combination of blackberry fruit and firm, dark tannins has created a complex, impressive wine. This has plenty of fruit, but the main components at this stage are its weight and structure. It has considerable aging potential; keep for 3–4 years. 92 points.

[Google-translated from Portugese: [L]ush and fresh with attractive notes of berries and floral nose much perfume pleasant in the mouth shows some structure and a very interesting smoothness throughout the race, reveals a soft and round tannins and fruity shows up, the end is medium in length and persistence.

♣ 3rd Annual New York International Wine Competition (2013), Gold medal

♣ Challenge International du Vin (2012), Silver medal

[Google-translated from Portugese:] Concentrated while being elegant and restrained, with fruit of blackberries and plums very expressive, alongside the attractive Touriga notes of cocoa. Silky and fat, very fresh, juicy, delicious.

Attractive nose. Cedar, violets and raisins, but not a baked/overripe flavour. Coming together nicely.

Color. Very different, almost port-like, black center, ruby tinges on the rim. Unusual in my book. Nose. Lots going on here over 24 hrs. Initially thought quite funky, in fact wondered about TCA? The nose is not port-like, notes mention black cherry, raspberry, smokey, "menthol" from across the table. As it opens, meaty and violets but could not find any "dried rasins" one might associate with TN. Palate. Initial entry thoughts were dry, tannic, cherry, black fruits, tad vegetal on a short finish. Medium acidity and did not find a lot of finesse here at first but over the evening, some big changes. A much softer finish (especially on day two), wallops of cherry and blackberry coming through. It is still a tad short on the finish but a much more approachable wine 24 hrs later.

… ripe, vanilla, violet, pepper, low tannin, berry fruit, 4-6 months in oak.

One of the finest Portuguese wines was featured last 16th February on The Irish Times Magazine as one of the four best wines of the week. John Wilson, well known Irish wine journalist, described the Grand'Arte Touriga Nacional as "a very drinkable example of Portugal's fines grape. Smooth, meaty, dark savoury fruits."



Aveleda Follies Touriga Nacional
(Bairrada, Portugal.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Wood laden, this is a spice- and fruit-flavored wine. It's complex, dense and packed with dusty tannins. Still young [2010 vintage in 2012], although already finely balanced, its structure is powerful and the wine is dark, full and rich. Age for 2-3 years. Score: 90.

On the nose, the wine offers an inviting blend of dark fruit including black currant and blackberry mingled with chocolate, tobacco and oak. A full-bodied, yet surprisingly elegant wine for the price, its up-front berry flavors are balanced by earthy, spicy notes at the back of the palate.

♣ Wine Advocate (2009), 90 points

♣ Wine Spectator (date unknown), 87 points

Deep purple in colour with fresh aromas of violets, blackcurrants and cherries, flavours of blackberries and hints of spice with a full mouthfeel, firm tannins and nice length. Good character and a fresh quality, but still quite young with good potential to develop further. A good wine with medium-strong cheeses. Editor Rating: 3½*, Very Good.

This cherry red colored wine opens with a very pleasant cherry like bouquet with hints of plum. On the palate, this medium bodied wine is smooth, soft, and tasty with black raspberry like flavors. The finish is quite dry and its tannins linger for quite some time.

inky black core, smoke, cream, liquorice and toast on the nose and palate with an intriguing beetroot, slightly earthy flavour. It was a very smooth, complex, richly textured wine with some exciting flavours beneath a suave texture.

[Google-translated from Portugese:] Full bodied wine, but balanced and elegant. Excel notes of dried fruits, figs and spice, with firm, round tannins. End of long and creamy mouth.

A bouquet of cocoa and spice gives way to fruit and fig flavors layered in firm tannins. Reviewer #1: "Dry with raspberry, mint and a bit of a floral finish. 3-1/2 stars." Reviewer #2: "Raisin, cherry, vanilla and plum with a dry, mint finish. 3-1/2 stars."



Delaforce Touriga Nacional
(Douro, Portugal.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Lush, jammy nose with black cherry, vanilla and eucalyptus hints. Full-bodied with moderate acidity and supple, yet firm tannin – well balanced. Port-like with a deep dark core of fruit – cacao and tobacco leaf notes. Long finish – seductive with cedar and cherry on the aftertaste. Delicious. Drinking well now and should improve with 5 to 7 years in bottle. Strong value.

Dry on entry and juicy on the finish, it offers ripe currant, plum and chocolate flavours pulled tight by astringent tannins. Cellar it for up to six years. 90 points

♣ Wine Advocate (date unknown), 88 points

♣ Wine Spectator (date unknown), 91 points

A dense, well-structured red, with powerful flavors of iron, dark plum and dried berry that feature plenty of smoke and spice, followed dark chocolate on the finish.

This wine opened up with aromas of plum-blackberry fruit, black currants, spices, earthy and minerals notes. On the mouthfeel, medium-full bodied with a rich combination of fruit, spices and bitter chocolate, balanced acidity and firm, dusty tannins. Loads of energy, power and concentration on the finish with a nice tannic grip lingering. Very interesting to try Touriga Nacional on its own, it give you a better idea what it brings in a blend; a deeper color, Cabernet Sauvignon like power and concentration and plenty of tannins for long term ageing. Very enjoyable, score 89 points.

This is pure Touriga Nacional, showing the variety’s natural perfumes and firm, structured tannins. Black currant flavor and a touch of oak gives fruit and roundness to the structure. 89 points

When you sip Delaforce Touriga Nacional, Douro 2007, the palate is harmonious.

Elegant full bodied style with chocolate, blackcurrant and spice, concentrated and smooth with complexity and length.



Quinta de Ventozelo Touriga Nacional
(Douro, Portugal.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Purity…. Here we have 100% Touriga Nacional from 25 year old vines aging in 100% American oak barrels. They stay in the American oak for 8 months but are held at the winey for 6 months for aging before its released to the export market. . . On the Nose – Warm, spiced red fruit, with just a touch of wet stone. On the Palate – dark strawberries and blackberries, baking spice, chalky tannins and a full mouth feel rounding out over a long finish.

While this wine is certainly tannic, the structure is beautifully cushioned by velvety, ripe black fruit. This has produced a rich, soft, dense wine that can certainly age for 2–3 years, yet is also ready to drink now [2009 vintage in 2012]. 90 points.

♣ Wine Advocate (date unknown), 86 points

♣ Wine Spectator (date unknown), 92 points

Very suave, with rich, concentrated flavors of dark currant, violet, kirsch and dark cherry that ooze with intense spicy notes. Black licorice and blackberry linger on the finish, which is filled with dark chocolate notes.

If you’re looking to wow your guests but don’t want to spend a fortune, here’s the wine for you. Touriga Nacional produces high quality wines and blends in many regions throughout Portugal and is the heart and soul of Port wine. A few countries outside of Portugal, most notably in the new world, are beginning to try their hand with this varietal on small scales given its resulting high caliber wines. The Quinta De Ventozelo is consistently a terrific value with satisfying intensity and yet plenty of food pairing potential, especially in barbecue season.

The combination of dried fruit and cedar-y oak feels a bit like eating a bowl of prunes in a sauna. Despite the wine’s concentration and heft, it’s still light on its feet with lively acidity.

I doubt Joe Wine Buyer will ever recognize a Touriga Nacional before a Merlot, Cab Sauv or Shiraz, but I think we'll see a lot more attention given to wines like this in the years to come. It doesn't hurt that the wine hits the mark with nice body, fruit and structure.



For a Splurge

It only averages a point or two higher in reviewer scores, but maybe the splurge is worth it to you. Thed wine is the Quinta do Vale das Escadinhas "Quinta da Falorca" Touriga Nacional (Dão, Portugal).

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.

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