Touriga, Touriga, Touriga

The theme of the Oporto conference  is ‘Discover Touriga Nacional’, the grape that Portugal is trying to turn into its ex-libris. I have a few problems with this. While I have no qualms about the undoubted qualities of Touriga Nacional as a variety, I am not convinced by TN as a varietal or monocasta as the Portuguese say. Like Cabernet Sauvignon which can be very one dimensional on its own, Touriga Nacional has a rather nebulous floral fragrance and a sweetness which flatters and leaves a slightly sickly finish. In a hot climate like that of the Alentejo it can produce wines which are jammy and verge on being soupy as the variety loses its definition. If anywhere is capable of making varietal TN it is Dão, probably the home of this grape and I taste a fascinating vertical of Quinta dos Roques 2008, 2005, 2003, 2000, and 1996. These have definition and integrity but even the best varietal Tourigas are one glass wines in my opinion (i.e. you enjoy the first but don’t want to pour a second). Roques Reserva, a field blend with a high percentage of TN has much more focus than any of the varietals. Before the conference a panel of journalists, both Portuguese and foreign chaired by Jancis Robinson, whittled down a list of 30 Tourigas to the ten best. At the conference dinner where most of the 30 wines were on show, a number of us (including some leading wine makers) identified the wines that we thought should be in the top ten. My top wines were Quinta Touriga-Chã, Delaforce, Quinta do Noval and Esporão Touriga Nacional, none of which made the final shortlist. Those which did make the top ten were as follows:

Alfaraz Touriga Nacional 2008, Alentejo

Churchill Estates, Touriga Nacional 2008, Douro

Encontro Touriga Nacional 2008, Bairrada

Herdade de São Miguel Touiga Nacional 2008, Alentejo

Inquieto Touriga Nacional 2008, Douro

Marques dos Vales Grace 2008, Algarve

Munda 2008 - Dão 

Pedra Cancela Touriga Nacional 2008, Dão

Quinta da Pedra Alta Touriga Nacional 2007, Douro

Quinta das Marias 2008, Dão

Quinta do Cardo Touriga Nacional 2008, Beira Interior

Quinta do Vallado Touriga Nacional 2008, Douro

In the concluding session of the conference a number of commentators were sufficiently candid to conclude that Touriga Nacional is better as part of a lote (blend) than it is on its own. Rui Reguinga who has some international experience went on to suggest TN with Malbec (Argentina), TN with Shiraz (Australia), TN with Cabernet (California). Never say never but I have no intention of releasing a varietal wine from Quinta do Centro. My feeling is that on our granite soils in the Serra de São Mamede we have hit on the the right blend in Touriga Nacional and Syrah from two adjoining plots. Look out for the release of a new wine, early next year.