All About Touriga Nacional

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Pronunciation – Too-Ree-Gah Nah-See-Un-Nall

Touriga Nacional is a red wine grape from Portugal, widely grown in the country’s cooler northern wine regions of Dao and Douro. It’s an important grape in Portugal, serving as a vital part of fortified Port blends, and is considered one of the best red wine grapes the country has to offer.

It’s also known by the name Mortágua, Touriga when it’s grown in Australia, or Carabuñera when it is grown in Spain. 

Touriga Nacional wines are famously low-yielding, producing just a few small bunches of fruit that vary in size greatly. The grapes are thick-skinned and dark blue, sometimes verging on black. Its grapes can be very small, increasing the overall ratio of skin to pulp, and making Touriga Nacional wines highly tannic. 

Despite its many names, Touriga Nacional is almost exclusively grown in Portugal. It is used in fortified Port blends, dry red blends, and to make dry, single-varietal red wines. Portuguese red blends are usually quite delicious and affordable, while a single-varietal Touriga Nacional will be more serious and tannic, and slightly on the expensive side. 

Touriga Nacional Tasting Notes

Touriga Nacional is dry and full-bodied, with high levels of acid and tannins. You can expect intense black and blue fruit flavors, and some subtle herbal character. Touriga Nacional also responds to oak aging very well, so in a dry wine style, you can also look out for some baking spice flavors. A single varietal wine will typically contain between 12 and 15% ABV. 

When tasting a Touriga Nacional, look out for notes of plum, blueberry, blackberry, dark chocolate, mint, violet and possibly some vanilla and nutmeg, depending on whether it has been aged in oak. 

Touriga Nacional Styles

Touriga Nacional has traditionally been used as part of a fortified blend, but in more recent years it has gained some popularity as a dry red wine too. As a single-varietal, it is a bold and intense wine, comparable to international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah/Shiraz.

New World style Touriga Nacional, such as the few produced in Australia, may exhibit more vibrant blue fruit flavors, and lifted spicy notes. 

Blends Made From Touriga Nacional

When used for Port, Touriga Nacional can be blended with any number of grapes. Approximately 80 different varietals are permitted for use in a Port Blend. Of course, it’s highly unlikely that one bottle of Port will contain all 80. However, producers often use “field blends” of all of the different grapes found in a section of vineyard, so even the wine-makers may not know the exact number of varietals used. Touriga Nacional stands out from all of the others. They add significant structure and form the backbone of any good-quality Port Blend. 

Touriga Nacional can also be blended with other red wines, such as Tempranillo and Touriga Franca, which balance out Nacional’s boldness with lighter red fruit flavors. 

Touriga Nacional Classifications

Portuguese wine classification comes in three levels, and you can use them to guide yourself towards the best possible Touriga Nacional.

At the bottom, you can find Vinho, which is essentially Touriga Nacional that has not been grown in any specific area, or a blend that has been drawn from vineyards all over the country. 

Next, you can find IGP, or Vinho Regional, which will be made from Touriga Nacional grapes grown in 1 of Portugal’s 14 wider wine regions. 

Finally, you have DOC, which means the wine comes from a defined geographical area, usually a terroir that is extremely well-suited to the cultivation of Touriga Nacional, such as Dao or Douro. This is the most specific and the highest quality classification of wine that you can find in Portugal. 

When To Drink Touriga Nacional

Due to its many styles, it can be enjoyed on several different occasions. Portuguese red blends containing Touriga Nacional are great for enjoying with friends, combining high-quality with an affordable price. The more intense single-varietals can be employed at a meaty dinner, alongside thick steaks or flavorful cheeses. Port Blends containing Touriga Nacional are delicious with dessert, and would even be fantastic heated up – hot Port is a great option to have at Christmas time. 

A pure, tannic version of Touriga Nacional will likely have to be decanted for up to an hour before you drink it, to let it open up a little. It is best when served slightly below room temperature, at 60–68°F (15-20°C).

Best Years To Drink Touriga Nacional

Touriga Nacional has great cellaring potential, thanks to its considerable tannic structure and high acidity. A high-quality version has the potential to sit in the cellar for at least 10 years, and possibly even longer, depending on the conditions. 

After a few years, you can expect an aged Touriga Nacional to have slightly softer tannins, and deeper, more pronounced flavors. 

Touriga Nacional Nutrition Facts

A glass of single-varietal Touriga Nacional will contain approximately: 

  • 130 calories
  • 3.2 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0.1 grams of protein

Fun Facts About Touriga Nacional

Before the phylloxera outbreak in the 19th century, Touriga Nacional made up 95% of all vineyards in Dao.

In 2019, Bordeaux added Touriga Nacional to the grapes permitted in Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur wines, along with 6 other varietals

Touriga Nacional is a parent of Touriga Franca, which is grown far more commonly in Portugal but is not as highly esteemed as Touriga Nacional.