Touriga Naçional is perhaps one of Portugal’s best red-wine grapes, and is often used in that country to make Port, as well as being drunk as a single-varietal wine. Only a small number of plants have been grown outside of its native country, with South Africa being one of the areas that have produced grapes from a vine. Although it is often used to make port in other countries, the Touriga Naçional is often overlooked as a wine by itself, and not many drinkers have experienced the tastes and flavours of the Touriga Naçional single-varietal wine. Fortunately, South African growers have now become interested in producing the wine, rather than blending it with another to make Cape Port, and drinkers can now purchase Touriga Naçional by itself.
It is not clear when Touriga Naçional first arrived in South Africa, although it is possible that the original colonists of the 17th and 18th century brought the wine to the Southern Hemisphere. It is known, after all, that they planted other vines in South Africa, and the Touriga Naçional could easily have been brought at that point. Since then a few vineyards in South Africa have consistently grown the grapes and produced Touriga Naçional wine, although many domestic markets do not know about this fine wine.
Like the rest of Portugal’s vines, the Touriga Naçional grape produces a wine that is heavily acidic and full of tannins, giving the wine a heavy body, but also appearing too sharp for some palates. Growers in South Africa consider that the wines are best produced by vineyards where the Atlantic winds can help to keep the vines cool and prevent the grapes from becoming too acidic. By ripening the grapes more slowly, a greater expression of freshness and fruit-flavours are allowed to appear in the wine. Left to itself, the grape will mature quickly, and this can often mean that it retains the acid in the flesh, which gives Port its distinctive taste.
Many port drinkers will know about the high level of tannins in the Touriga Naçional wine, and this can make the young wine seem very bitter and astringent. However, tannins can mature in the bottle to leave the drinker with a smooth and velvety wine which has a great deal more complexity than the average wine. This combined with the Touriga Naçional‘s deep colour and very intense aromas, are reminiscent of port, but are also enjoyable in the single-varietal wines.
The Touriga Naçional wine is limited by the low production of the vines, and they are also very expensive due to the work which is required to produce a good, drinkable wine. The Calitzdorp wine maker De Krans has made a Touriga Naçional, as have the Allesverloren wine makers in Swartland. The latter should have plenty of experience, as they were previously award-winning Port makers. Their Touriga Naçional has a dark ruby colour with cherry and black berry flavours, combined with tobacco and coffee for a smoky sensation on the tongue.