Week 12 – Touriga Nacional

Tasting Notes

We tasted: MOB – Dao Touriga, Jaen, Alfochiero, Baja 2013 Berry Bros & Rudd £28.95

Emma says: “This week has certainly been a mission. In fact I’ll be surprised if anyone joins in. After suggesting that people find a Douro red which has predominantly Touriga Nacional in the blend our search of London showed this was nigh on impossible.

Most Douro reds have “Tinta Roriz” (aka Tempranillo) as the first grape listed on the label and by law the list of grapes in a blend has to list them in order of highest percentage. We did some pretty heavy Google searching and found this was the case almost everywhere. We were about to give up when I recalled a great wine friend, Abi, had bought me a lovely bottle for my birthday from another classic region in Portugal, “Dao”. Hey presto it is predominantly Touriga. So a stroke of luck and a big thank you to Abi.

On tasting I think this wine actually shows more about the region and the particular style it brings rather than Touriga. I imagine other tasters with a Douro wine will get a different experience. This is a really serious wine. The scent is very dark brooding with a slate-y mineral intensity, and some medicinal and herbal notes. On tasting it is taught with grippy but nicely fine tannin. The flavours continue to deliver a smoky pencil lead intensity that I normally find in good Bordeaux. There is also lovely dense, bright purple fruit which points to the warmer climate of Southern Europe. But this isn’t a bouncy, fruity, luscious sort of wine it is more on the serious side with mouth filling intensity and a complex array of flavours that appeal to those people that want a wine that lingers and brings more and more flavours as you ponder on it.

On reading about the wine it is made by three winemakers Jorge Moreira, Francisco Olazabal and Jorge Borges who are normally based in the Douro and with this joint project want to represent the true spirit of Dao with grapes grown beside Portuguese highest mountain range giving this wine that extra dose of acidity and that mineral intensity from the poor granitic soil influence, where vines bury deeply and produce wines with extra intensity. Besides Touriga this wine has other local interesting grapes in the blend, I have always particularly like Baga which is akin to Nebbiolo in its bold tannic delivery and Jaen is related to Mencia and Cabernet Franc; for those wanting geek facts.

I’m really glad I tried it. Like many Portuguese wines I find they have a distinct and unique character and feel quite sad that we don’t see them more often in our UK stores. I think it may be that with their totally different array of grape names that are hard to pronounce so they don’t make an easy sell. What a shame, we need to get more spirit of adventure back into wine. Which is precisely what 52 grapes is about and is exactly what Portuguese wines need.”

Andy says: “I’ve spent most of this week worrying about two things.

Thing one – the complete lack of availability of Touriga dominant wines in major supermarkets. We appear to have sent you on a bum steer, so if you’re reading this and still looking, just get any Douro red. It will have Touriga in it. Probably.

Thing two – A pun for this week’s newsletter title. “Touriga Nacional” isn’t exactly the most pun-able grape name in the world. Aruba, Touriga, ooh I wanna take ya… you now have the Beach Boys / Kokomo in your head. Thank me later.

We decided to have this wine with dinner. I needed something to do beforehand so had a glass of a new Malbec. It was a sample Emma had brought home, and was already open. Rude not to, right? It was full of lovely fruity flavour, but this isn’t Malbec week. You know when you haven’t got enough Ribena left to make a glass of juice, but you give it a go anyway and end up with a weak, pale pink, overly diluted homeopathic tribute act? That’s what it felt like when I then tried this week’s red.  This Dao Touriga was like drinking water in comparison to the Malbec.

But this was very much a short term opinion. I left the wine for a little time to open up and also to allow my palate to reset. The second tasting was much improved – I definitely got fruit (I couldn’t name which one though. Grape?) and a bit of smoke. Tannin wise I thought they were soft, as there was a quick light grip on the tongue that quickly disappeared, as that’s what I thought soft tannins were. Having Googled a list of wine terms, I have decided ’round’ (“A wine that has a good sense of body that is not overly tannic.”) is the best fit.

In summary, very drinkable but still haven’t found my red of choice.”

Buying Guide

UPDATE: It seems there aren’t that many Touriga led reds out there – so if you’re struggling, any Douro red will do!

Touriga is the most famous red grape of Portugal. It tends to be used in reds from the Douro region, which also makes port wines. The easiest way to find a wine made with this grape is to look for a red from Portugal made in the Douro valley. Or to look for the Portuguese red section in a retailer and check the back label for the grapes used in the blend. It is unusual to find a 100% Touriga so it’s very likely you’ll have to scour the labels and find a blend. Watirose, M&S and Aldi stock Douro reds. If all else fails a bottle of port would make an interesting option to try this week.

13 thoughts to “Week 12 – Touriga Nacional”

  1. Semi admitted defeat on this as all of the Portugues reds that I could find were blends, some of which didn’t include Touriga Nacional. So not much point in terms of pin pointing the flavour of the grape.

    But I will keep looking and post when I find one.

  2. By a stroke of luck the Duoro I bought was predominantly Touriga Nacional (blended with tinta barocca, tinto cao, touriga franca and tinta roriz)

    Quinta do Cachao 2014, (Le Bon Vin, £8)
    bottle says ‘fruity’ (I think they ran out of room on the label after listing all the grape varieties)

    It was a deep blood-red colour.

    The aroma was of rich, dark fruits, and rather woody (not like oak, like the pencil-shavings in a Pauillac)

    It tasted of damsons, and was very rich and earthy, with a strong presence of herbs.

    The wine was quite well balanced, the tannins seeming to keep the fruit in check, so it could be savoured at leisure, rather than bursting out all at once. It did drink heavier than its stated 13%.

    Overall, this was quite a nice wine, and I could see what it was trying to do, but it seemed a little flat and dull to what it could be, so I will definitely be tempted to try a better example, the next time I buy a Douro.

  3. This is why I signed up! Lovely finds TTD Douro from Sainsbury’s at £9 we’ll priced could smell the berries, got the complexity but smooth and paired well with both lamb followed by a strong blue Stilton! One for the buy again list!

  4. This is the first grape where I think I can safely say that I’ve never tried it before in unfortified. I must have been lucky as I managed to find a bottle of majority Touriga Nacional in my local Oddbins. I tried a Quinta de la Rossa ‘DouRosa’ 2015 (£13.75, 13.5%).

    It had a clean, deep garnet appearance. The nose was rather subdued and surprisingly unfruity. There were (sour) cherries in there but it had to be decanted for a good long time before they made themselves known. I also got a curious earthiness – pencil leads and a bit of fertiliser(!) – as well as subtle rosy floweriness.

    Despite the alcohol I found it quite light bodied to taste. I initially found it a bit watery and insipid, not fruity. There were chemically pencil leads again and an acidic finish, with tannic alcohol warmth afterwards. It reminded me a bit of the Garnacha (which I wasn’t a fan of). However, by chance, I had it knocking about in the kitchen for a few days and only after that long exposed to the air did I find it develop and an attractive dark frutiness come out. It has improved considerably and was much more drinkable, but what a wait!

    Initially I found this wine disappointing and lacking in flavour and body. I had written it off as just not my style and “not very nice”. However, it did definitely improve over time – opening out to become much fruitier and easier drinking. But I’d say it wasn’t worth the wait and probably won’t try it again soon.

    1. Loving your tasting notes Will. So evocative. And also it is really interesting to hear how the wine develops days later. We’re finding the same. It is especially true with tannic wines like Douro’s because the tannin lock in a lot of character which then air helps release over time…

      1. Thanks Emma! I’m becoming a bit of a decanting fanatic – it’s amazing how much better some of the wines are a day or so later. I had thought decanting only made much difference to expensive wines. Interesting!

  5. We were lucky and managed to find a Douro with majority touriga nacional. At first I thought it smelled like a farmyard, but then I realised it was more woody, musty wet wood smelling. Not very pleasant. It was quite tannic. Doesn’t match what any website was describing. Unluckily, we got a corked bottle 🙁

    Wine tasted: Niepoort Sásta Douro 2016.

    We happened to spy another touriga nacional in a local supermarket the next day – so we had to try it! And, we are so glad we did! Smoky nose with blackcurrants and cherries. Full bodied, lovely mouthfeel Great legs ? We’ll be going back for more!

    Wine tasted: Grand’arte 2009

    1. The curse of the corked bottle and ironically from the very country that makes them! What a shame… Nieport is a famous Douro winery so sounds like the back up was a good alternative though! Andy and I happened to try a bottle from them later in the week as our second Touriga blend and really liked it too…

  6. Well, I have done my homework. Quinta do Vallado Douro 2009 and it says on the label it is unblended T Nacional. Bought some years ago, and I would guess it’s not a cheap wine, perhaps $50 Australian. Smells like a concentrated warm climate wine, something like cooked or dried plums. But not an aroma I would expect from Port. Can one smell tannin. Big, thick fruit on the palate, and noticeable ripe tannin. However the fruit is admirably savoury, ie none of the jamminess I might expect from a similar wine from the new world. I assume there is some acidity in the background, as there is still some freshness. I generally like my Touring Nacional fortified but this is a very individual and delicious wine.

    1. Hi Ian, What a nice surprise. It seems there is a better selection of Touriga in Australia than the UK. Although we are honoured you splashed out that much for it. Interesting question about whether you can smell tannin. Not exactly. However you can smell when a wine has been made with whole bunches and some stalks left in the fermentation, that tends to give a nice sort of “green-ness” to Pinot Noirs. With this style of wine it is probably more the fruit character you are smelling and then potentially the oak used. Hope that helps. Emma

  7. I’m catching up on the last 3 wines so started with Agenda Dao 2015 – Majestic wines manager’s choice. From the Dao region, it it was crowned the 2016 winner in the Managers choice competition and awarded bronze in the international wine challenge 2017.
    Touriga nacional is the dominant grape, blended with alfrochiero and tinta roriz. This is very soft and rounded with full flavours of plums and blackberries
    The label suggests red currants and cherry aromas but I’m not convinced I’m picking these up

    It’s really easy and enjoyable to drink and at £7.99 it’s a bargain – good weekday wine – will definitely be buying again

    1. Hi Darren, Great to see you found a Dao too. And a bit of a more reasonably priced one. Hope you got a similarly powerful experience. Ours really packed a mineral punch!

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