Origin: Portugal, around the Dão region

Grown: Portugal (especially popular in Douro and Dão), up and coming in Australia, California and South Africa

Climate: Warm Mediterranean

Soil: Thrive in the Douro valley with its steep schist slopes

Viticulture: Vigorous vine that must be kept in check, but unfortunately at the same time it produces few bunches and very small grapes. One of the lowest yielding grapevines in the world, making it financially problematic to grow. But clonal selection is quickly improving this, increasing yields and sugar content. Otherwise heat resistant and good natural resistance against fungal diseases, making it a grape variety for the future

Vinification: Since the grapes are small, they give very little juice, but with a lot of skin contact resulting in concentrated and aromatic wines. Commonly used as one of the blending components in traditional Port wines, but gaining more and more popularity as a single grape variety, especially in the new world. Demands time on oak to balance the sometimes-harsh tannins

Regional names to look for on label:

  • Douro DOC
  • Dão DOC

General Personality:

  • Colour: Remarkably intense, with hints of purple when young
  • Aromas: Blueberry, blackberry, plum, violet, mint, liquorice, leather and slate. Oak aging adds aromas of vanilla and nutmeg
  • Taste and Texture: High in structure and body, high tannins and concentrated flavours, good acidity to balance. Unless in port it is always dry
  • Conclusion: With a name that is hard to pronounce and a vine that is even harder to grow, it is understandable that Touriga Nacional has not won more acclaim this far. But at the same time, after you have tried your first Touriga Nacional, you will never forget it.
    It is a power package, we are talking Barossa Shiras, Cahors Malbec and California Cabernet, it is tannic, harsh and rich. And if you can handle this style, you have found a new best friend. Since the yields are so low, you will never come across a bland Touriga Nacional, and generally the prices are a steal
  • Future: This is one to buy, bring down into the cellar and then forget about for the next 15 years or so (if you like that sort of thing). Never a wine to be drunk young, but at the same time, a few years are enough to give it balance, it can easily handle a decade or two, but there is no need for that (as long as you enjoy your powerful reds)

Food pairings:

  • General: With its boldness, it is not a wine that the masses will enjoy on its own. If you, on the other hand enjoy that astringent, punch in the face sensation, it is the perfect Sunday night wine, when you just want a glass or two. But for the rest of you, it is definitely a wine that demands food, and now we are not talking anything light. Here we need fat and protein to help balance the wine. No hot spices, no green vegetables, no acidity, that will just ruin it
  • Obvious pairing: Mushroom Wellington
    Vegan or meat-eater, if you have not tried a Mushroom Wellington yet, you have not lived. Here is a ridiculously simple and Award-Winning Recipe. Touriga Nacional is not a traditional mushroom wine, but with Portobello mushrooms that does not mater, since they are more meaty than “mushroomy”. Here the thyme marries beautifully with the mint flavours of the wine, or for that matter, if you feel a bit playful, add a few leaves of finely chopped mint to the caramelised onions. Really a perfect pairing to serve to the family, especially if you have some stubborn meat-eaters around the table
  • On the wild side: Rack of La-la-Lamb
    I know, meat substitutes are not for everyone, but since a lot more people are trying vegan food nowadays, it is nice to be able to offer them food that is familiar, to make the transition easier. At first look (and taste) This Recipe is a rack of lamb, but no lamb was hurt in the making of it. The base is tofu, and admittedly it takes some effort to make this dish, but it is well wort the effort. Here the herb crust makes all the difference. The crispy, flavoursome crust together with the Touriga Nacional is just magic. The lamb gives the dish structure to stand up the harsh tannins. Just be carful with the sides, play with potato-based dishes, avoid asparagus or Brussel sprouts, since they will make the wine taste metallic and unbalanced