Touriga Naçional is a red grape variety mostly used in the production of port-style blends, but more recently also for the production of dry red wines. Its parentage is unknown.
The general consensus is that Touriga Naçional originated in northern Portugal, but there is still some debate over where exactly. The Douro Valley claims the variety has its roots there, arguing it was named after the Douro village, Touriga; while Dão claims they are the true origin of the variety.
DNA analysis, so far, is in favour of Dao’s claim, proving the region has a has a much greater clonal and varietal diversity of Touriga Naçional than Douro. Based on the results, it also seems that the variety only arrived in Douro after the 18th Century.
Touriga Naçional is not the most planted variety in Portugal, but it is by far one with the best quality.
Numerous synonyms exist, including Touriga, Touringa, Mortágua, Turiga and Bical Tinto.
Production in South Africa
Touriga Naçional arrived in South Africa in the 1970s. Overgaauw Wines, near Stellenbosch, were the first to plant the variety in the late 1970s, apparently to add complexity to their vintage-style port wines. In 1992, the Estate also became the first in the country to produce a single varietal Port from Touriga Naçional grapes. De Krans near Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo planted its first Touriga Naçional in 1984 and in 2000 became the first winery in the country to produce a single varietal wine from the variety.
Production is still very limited in South Africa, with roughly 100 ha planted under the variety in 2016. More than half these plantings are located in the Swartland and Klein Karoo.
The variety is a vigorous grower, but produces low yields that averages between 8 t/ha to 10 t/ha.
The grapes ripen late mid-season, from the middle of March.
The variety has tiny, oval-shaped berries with thick, black skins. The flesh is juicy with prominent fruity flavours.
The variety has light green, medium sized leaves that are round and whole to five lobed.
Pests and diseases
It is susceptible to downy mildew.
In South Africa it is used to make single varietal and blended table and fortified port-style wines. Blends usually include other Portuguese varieties, such as Verdelho, Souzão, Tinta Barocca and Tempranillo.
The variety produces flavours associated with black berries, mulberries, violets, roses and dark chocolate.