This blog is slightly out of sync with the rest of it really. I was meant to visit a Portuguese restaurant whilst I was running New Wine This Week, week 6, where we had a look at Touriga Nacional. Now I like to cook, so when I’m coming up with food pairings I do like to have a think of what to do myself in the kitchen, but then a few weeks back I realized that leaving one night of the week to the professionals isn’t a bad idea either.
So off I went on Twitter asking who knew of any good Portuguese restaurants around London? I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Tim for his suggestion of Nando’s. Thanks pal, but I was looking for something a tad more specialized! Although the refill tango always appeals to the 12 year old in me…
Well it was another very well behaved tasting session at the Please Bring Me My Wine household. 4 bottles of wine from each of the 4 shops, during my first valentine’s day as a married man, and spent with my parents, my sister and her fella, and the family dog. Although the dog didn’t taste much of the wine.
Not sure if you’ve heard, but it’s Valetine’s Day! So maybe it’s going to be a bit difficult to tell everyone to not just fly off to the wine aisles for the nearest bottle of £10 sparkling wine, but I’m going to try. What can be nicer on a cold, wet, and windy night than sitting round over a warming bottle of red and some big, hearty bowls full of food?
Well that’s exactly what I’m saying for Touriga Nacional week here. I’m writing this as I’m looking out the window of my flat, at the wind lashing down at the poor buggers wandering round the streets outside. I’m seriously tempted to start my Touriga tasting right now! And to be fair, after I’ve been to pick up the last few bits and pieces for dinner, I think I might just do that!
Touriga Nacional is produced all the way up and down Portugal. Given it’s full body, vibrant colour, and deep fruit flavour it’s an exceptionally useful wine to use in blends. For the most part that’s how it will come along, as part of a blend.
In the central and southern areas, like for Bairrada and Alentejo wines, it makes up part of the blend along with 2-3 other grape varieties. There are two areas in the north though which really throws it out there in centre stage. One is the famous Douro Valley, and the other is the Dão area.
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?
I suppose when you think about Portugal, it’s all about sunny holidays, great surf, and a few golf resorts. When you think about what the national drink (from an export point of view I guess) is, you’d be right in saying Port. The sweet and fortified wine effectively invented by the British merchants in the 18th century. It’s massive business and it makes use of the countless local grapes still grown in Portugal for plenty of blending to closely-guarded secret formulas.
Portuguese table wine always had a reputation of cheap rosés, led by the famous/infamous Mateus Rosé. But in the last 10 to 15 years lots of investment has come into the country. The big challenge was always that there are lots and lots of small vineyard owners, and how do you get everyone to modernize their techniques? And how do you keep an otherwise poor rural population working in the industry?
Look at us being organized! We’re flicking between old world and new, and red and white, and we’re continuing that theme this week with a trip to Port country for some Portuguese Touriga Nacional.