Wine varietals and styles

Get to know touriga nacional

By Halliday Wine Companion

19 Jun, 2024

Get to know touriga nacional [too-REE-gah nah-see-un-nall].

Go to section: Touriga nacional tasting characteristics | What is touriga nacional? | Touriga nacional around the world | How to pair food with touriga nacional | Serving temperature for touriga nacional

Touriga nacional is a thick-skinned grape from Portugal that produces full-bodied red wines.

Touriga nacional tasting characteristics

Touriga nacional often shows intense, dark fruit characters in blackberry and black cherry, trademark racy floral notes, spice, and sometimes herbal or eucalyptus undertones.

“It has this beautiful Earl Grey tea perfume, flowers instead of fruit, which is what first fascinated me,” says Heirloom co-owner and winemaker Elena Brooks. 

Touriga growing on vines in Douro Valley, Portugal Touriga nacional is a thick-skinned grape native to Portugal.

What is touriga nacional?

Hailing from Portugal, touriga nacional is a thick-skinned grape, which is used in the production of full-bodied red wines. It is known for its deep colour and high tannins.

“Often seen only as a blender, this is an able petition for more standalone bottlings,” writes Tasting Team member Marcus Ellis of the Heirloom Vineyards 2023 Touriga, a single-variety take on the Portuguese grape from McLaren Vale.

Most producers who grow touriga in Australia, where it thrives in warm, dry climates, make fortified wines. But Heirloom Vineyards, co-owned by Elena Brooks (also Dandelion Vineyards) is part of a growing cohort looking at the drought-tolerant grape for dry red wines. “I came across it in Italy around 17 years ago – it’s what all the local winemakers were drinking then,” Elena says of single-variety touriga. “I fell in love with it.” By 2012 she’d introduced it to the Heirloom range, the first release of 100 cases heading straight to the Qantas business class list. A 2ha touriga-planted Blewitt Springs site followed around five years later.

Touriga nacional around the world

Touriga nacional, usually just called ‘touriga’ here (Australia being the land of nicknames), is the most famous variety used in the production of port and, increasingly, for dry red wines. Outside of Portugal it’s predominantly grown in Rutherglen and the Riverland, where it’s historically been used in fortified wines and, increasingly, McLaren Vale. Winemakers in California and South Africa are keen, too. 

Cooking paellaTouriga is a perfect match for paella.

How to pair food with touriga nacional

Touriga-dominant wines are a great match for chargrilled meats and braised, stewed dishes. Hard cheeses, olives and spicy salami are good fun, too. “Spanish and Portuguese foods are so gorgeous with those wines,” Elena says, “because touriga has a great fresh acidity. Think paella, beans and chorizo." 

Serving temperature for touriga nacional

The ideal serving temperature for touriga nacional is 15–20 degrees.

Frequently asked questions about touriga nacional

Where does touriga nacional come from?
Touriga nacional AKA touriga is native to Portugal. Touriga nacional is Portugal's best-known red grape variety.

What does touriga nacional taste like?
Touriga nacional has floral notes of violets, alongside notes of Earl Grey tea, mint and wet slate.

How much is touriga nacional?
You can expect to pay between $30 and $40 for a bottle of touriga nacional in Australia.

Words: Nola James.