Portuguese grape varieties can be really confusing, and in all fairness, I wouldn’t even begin to suggest you look to know them all.
One of the biggest the problems is that the names tend to be interchangeable. Tempranillo in Spain (and in pretty much everywhere else in the world) is known as Tinta Roriz in Portugal. Even within Portugal the name depends on which area you’re in. Tinta Roriz is only the more famous name because it’s known as that in Port production. In the centre and south of the country it’s known as Aragonês. You see how quickly it can get confusing?
Well luckily enough, the most important red grape in the country, Touriga Nacional, is a native grape, and known by the same name pretty much everywhere. Much easier! For years it was one of the more important grapes that went into Port production (and still is), but in recent years it’s also been used to make a hugely improved range of red table wines.
As a plant it gives fairly low yields. By that I mean that it doesn’t grow as many grapes as other species of vine. That is a double-edged sword for producers. On the one hand you have less product at the end, but on the flip side each grape has a higher concentration of all the flavour produced on the vine. So the flavour from Touriga Nacional is invariably pretty intense.
It’s also a very thick-skinned grape that loves growing in the warmer climbs of all these river valleys that flow through Portugal. Colour and tannin (tannin gives the wine body and is detected by the drying sensation on your gums) comes from the grape skins during initial fermentation after harvest. The thick skins mean deep colour, and plenty of tannin.
So Touriga Nacional will give very flavoursome, big bodied, and deeply coloured wines. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Other posts in NWTW Week 6: