Touriga – a grape by any other name would smell as sweet

Touriga Nacional

The diversity of Portuguese grape varieties is staggering, and a confusing topic for both Portuguese and non-Portuguese wine lovers.  I have personally witnessed arguments among Portuguese winemakers, unable to agree on the synonyms for a particular Portuguese variety, as most varieties are known in different regions by different names.   In naming them through the centuries, the Portuguese have borrowed references from body parts, animals even emotions – (i.e. Rabo de ovelha: the ewe’s tail;  Pé-agudo: pointed foot; Tinto Cão: red dog).

This hodgepodge of different names for the same variety, does not stop at the Portuguese border. Aragonez, the Alentejan name for one of Cortes de Cima’s star-performers, not only turns into Tempranillo when crossing the Spanish border, but also enjoys dozens of more Spanish synonyms for a real Iberian linguistic guessing game!

Our travels around the world on wine tastings are a great way to educate wine lovers about the mystery of Portuguese wines and their varieties. We are  invariably asked  -  “what does ‘Cortes de Cima’ mean?” answer: “a forest clearing on a hill”  ”What does ‘Chaminé’ mean?” answer:  ”A chimney” from ‘Chaminé do Giáo’. Both of these are place names taken from the parcel of land where the grapes are grown.

And the same questions pop up about the Portuguese varietals, i.e.  ”What does ‘Touriga’ mean?” as in our single varietal Touriga Nacional. According to local belief, there is a small village in the heart of the Dão,  ’Tourigo‘ – where the variety is said to originate.  The variety dominated the Dão vineyards prior to phylloxera (1870′s), and prior to its widespread appearance in the Douro, as a major grape for port production.  To back up this theory, it is pointed out that Mortágua, a neighbouring village to Tourigo, is a synonym for the same variety.

Touriga Nacional , also known as the ‘queen’ of the Portuguese grape varieties, is now grown successfully in all areas of Portugal, from the north to the south, and has spread rapidly across the border and around the globe, to Spain, Australia, California, etc.  Cortes de Cima was one of the pioneers in growing Touriga Nacional in the Alentejo where, characterized by its low production and small berries, when well ripened we find it one of our most unique wines, distinguished by highly aromatic fruit and an intense flowery bouquet. All 3 of our releases to date (including the currently available 2005)  have been showered with top +90 ratings, gold medals and trophies including the  IWC Touriga trophy, Alentejo trophy, and Portuguese Red Wine Trophy.

One comment on “Touriga – a grape by any other name would smell as sweet

  1. Pingback: Cortes de Cima » Blog Archive » Oporto hosts top wine journalists to help sell brand ‘Portugal’

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