Acidity: Medium to high
Age: Needs to age for a few years to soften its tannic structure.
Touriga Nacional (too-REE-gah na-son-AL) is native to Portugal and many consider it to be the country’s best grape variety. It has long been revered as the star grape in the production of Fortified (Port) wines, and today produces many excellent varietal and blended wines in the Powerful style.
It is a vigorous growing vine that likes hot climatic conditions and is usually planted on the warmest sites. However, despite this vigor it produces very low yields from its sparse bunches of small, thick-skinned grapes – its yields are much lower than most commercial grape varieties. Clones are currently being developed in an attempt to increase yields and therefore improve productivity.
The wines Touriga Nacional makes are concentrated and full flavored with high tannin and medium to high acidity. A richly aromatic fragrance of violets gives way to black fruit flavors of blackberry and mulberry on the palate, along with spicy black pepper notes. The high tannin levels, due to the small thick-skinned grapes, and good acidity make the wines very suitable to oak aging, which helps soften their structure and allow them to age beautifully.
Because of Touriga’s low yields and tannic structure it is mainly used as a blending partner in table wines, as well as being a very important component in the production of Port. While it is undoubtedly excellent in blends, and many believe this to be its true vocation, it is increasingly fashionable to produce it as a pure varietal table wine (made from 100% Touriga Nacional). In this respect it is often compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, which is often made as a varietal wine but excels in blends.
At its best Touriga Nacional is a lush, yet vibrant, wine with great character and finesse. It ages well and needs a few years to soften its tannic structure, but as it does so its rich flavors deepen and develop wonderfully. It is definitely a grape worth getting to know, both as a blending partner and going solo as a varietal wine.
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