Portugal’s Touriga Nacional

The rich tapestry of global wine history would be critically incomplete without mentioning Portugal’s pivotal role in grape cultivation and vineyard innovation. Within this viticultural saga, a protagonist emerges from Portugal’s diverse grape varieties – Touriga Nacional. Not only has this grape variety flourished on its native soil, but it has also left an indelible mark on the international wine landscape, serving as one of the critical grape varieties in the creation of Portugal’s acclaimed Port Wine.

The Roots of Touriga Nacional

While Touriga Nacional is commonly associated with the Douro Valley—the revered region where the grapes for Port Wine are nurtured—it’s important to remember that this grape’s origin traces back to another historic Portuguese wine region: Dão. Officially recognized as the country’s second demarcated region in 1908, Dão is sometimes likened to the renowned French Burgundy region due to its tradition of producing exceptional wines. This region sprawls over an impressive 20,000 hectares, with vineyards dedicated to cultivating a wide array of grape varieties.

Portugal's Touriga Nacional

Figure 1. Wine produced from Touriga Nacional in Portugal.

Although Touriga Nacional first took root in the Dão region, its inherent resilience and quality soon led to its cultivation across Portugal. Testament to the grape’s international appeal is its successful growth in numerous countries beyond its homeland. From the vineyards of the United States and Chile to the wine regions of South Africa, Australia, and Brazil, Touriga Nacional has lent its distinctive characteristics to countless wine labels around the world.

The Unique Characteristics of Touriga Nacional

The essence of Touriga Nacional lies in the grapes themselves. They are distinctive, producing wines with considerable alcohol content, vibrant color concentration, and high complexity. Touriga Nacional wines are rich and full-bodied, featuring fine, well-structured tannins that appeal to wine lovers who favor bold, robust wines. Aged in oak barrels, these wines often exude alluring aromas of vanilla and spices, further enhancing their appeal.

Touriga Nacional’s adaptability is noteworthy, flourishing in different soil types and climates. Regardless of where it grows, wines crafted from Touriga Nacional possess a memorable character and undeniable quality, lending a unique dimension to the world of wine.

Another feature of this grape is its exceptional aging potential. As the wines age, they develop a depth of flavors and aromas that result in a more complex and rewarding tasting experience. The small, compact clusters of Touriga Nacional grapes yield small, round, black-blue berries. While the vine’s production is relatively modest—only about 1 to 1.5 kg per vine—the quality of the grapes is superior, resulting in exceptional wines.

A distinguishing characteristic of Touriga Nacional is its signature violet aroma. This unique scent adds a distinct facet to the grape’s appeal, further enriching the sensory experience of savoring wines made from this variety.

Food Pairings with Touriga Nacional Wines

One of the pleasures of enjoying fine wines is discovering food pairings that enhance both the food and the wine. With Touriga Nacional wines, whether they are intricate blends or pure, 100% single-varietal labels, the experience is no different. The complex flavors and aromas of these wines allow them to pair well with dishes that boast intense flavors.

Consider starting your meal with a cheese board featuring robust blue cheeses, perhaps accented with some dried fruit or nuts. The strong, rich flavors of the cheese are beautifully matched by the bold intensity of a Touriga Nacional wine.

Moving onto the main course, this versatile wine pairs well with a variety of meats. A juicy steak, roast lamb, or even game meats like venison can stand up to the powerful flavors of a Touriga Nacional. The wine’s high tannin content and strong fruit flavors provide a delightful counterbalance to the savory richness of the meat.

Finally, when it comes to dessert, a Touriga Nacional can hold its own. Traditional Portuguese desserts, such as Pastel de Nata (a Portuguese custard tart) or Arroz Doce (a sweet rice pudding), offer a delightful contrast to the wine’s robust character.


Touriga Nacional is a shining example of Portugal’s viticultural excellence. This grape variety’s significant contribution to the country’s wine production has firmly established Portugal’s reputation as a quality wine producer. Simultaneously, Touriga Nacional’s influence has transcended borders, making its mark on the global wine industry.

As we savor a glass of wine made from Touriga Nacional, we not only enjoy its bold, complex flavors but also partake in a centuries-old Portuguese wine tradition. Every sip tells a story of the grape’s journey from its origins in the Dão region to vineyards worldwide. It’s a journey that reflects the resilience and versatility of this remarkable grape variety and a testament to Portugal’s enduring influence in the world of wine.

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Here is a list of some typical food items that harmonize nicely with the Touriga Nacional grape:

  • Blue cheeses like Roquefort;
  • Red meat;
  • Dishes that combine meat and fruit, such as lamb with apricots and chicken with orange;
  • Chocolate and desserts with chocolates as a base;
  • Beverages, such as coffee and mocha coffee;
  • Nut-based desserts.

Want to read more? Try these books!

Port & the Douro (Guides to Wines and Top Vineyards) The wines of Portugal (The Classic Wine Library)

Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesTags: , , , By Published On: October 31, 2022Last Updated: February 27, 2024

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