Touriga Nacional

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Touriga Nacional, the most famous vine variety for port and, increasingly, for fine dry reds, and not just in portugal. It produces small quantities of very small berries in the douro Valley and the Portuguese dão region (where it probably originated) which result in deep-coloured, very tannic, concentrated wines, often with a floral aroma in youth. The vine is vigorous and robust but is prone to coulure and may produce just 300 g/10 oz of fruit per vine, making it unpopular with growers. This almost led to its extinction in the mid 20th century but considerable work has been done on clonal selection of the variety so that newer cuttings are slightly more productive and average sugar levels even higher. Touriga Nacional is proportionately more important in its native Dão than the Douro and can make fine varietal reds here, although the variety is regarded by many as better in a blend. Touriga Nacional plantings have been increasing considerably, not least because it has migrated south into most other Portuguese wine regions. Its total area had reached 10,531 ha/26,012 acres by 2012. Touriga Nacional has also been travelling extensively outside Portugal—notably to Australia in its capacity as an alternative variety, California, and South Africa—although each of them had only about 100 ha by 2014. Its distinctive name, proliferation of varietal versions from Portugal, and its nominal hint at the glories of quinta do noval Nacional are expected to continue its worldwide spread.