Touriga Nacional – Should it be a Flagship Wine

One of many great Portuguese Touriga Nacional's

I touched on this discussion in my last post… “Marketing People” have decided to make Touriga Nacional the flagship varietal of Portugal. There has been some debate on this, most of it one way, but debate none the less.. I would like to give my opinion on this as someone who is not exactly new to Portuguese wine, but as someone who has seen a lot of different wine around the world and lots of different marketing in my time. In and out of the wine industry.

To start with, here are a couple of pros and cons I can see for this move:

Pros

Touriga Nacional wines are very good. You will not see many people debating that. The ones that are done very well are up there with some very highly priced wines from any country. This is a very good thing worth shouting about in the Portuguese wine industry. I don’t think there has been enough shouting about Portuguese wine in the past, apart from Port. If this marketing move can reach a lot of people, it could spark a positive turn for Portuguese wine.

The reasoning behind pushing this varietal is quite sound, because you will be impressed with the quality for your money. Therefore as a consumer, you will probably return to the same wine again in future. Also you may recommend it to others as a great value wine.

Cons

Touriga Nacional represents a small percentage of the huge variety of, mainly native, grapes grown in Portugal. If a craze for the wine takes hold, there is no way supply can match demand. This is also be a pro, because it will drive the price up, and put Portugal’s wine firmly in the public eye. However, this could be devastating to many other native grapes, which also make very good wines. If we lose them, they may not come back, which would be a very sad thing to happen.

In my mind, the diversity of all these native grapes, coupled with Portugal’s wine tradition to quite often blend them, is the most valuable asset to their wine industry. If focus shifts away from this tradition, it would ruin, what I consider, the most traditional and interesting part of very long history wine making. If Portugal looses its traditions of blends and many native grapes, then they will be no different to the new world producers trying to make the best Shiraz, Cab Sav, Zinfandel, Chardonnay Pinot Gris or Touriga Nacional they can. This is not going to put Portugal on the map for long, new world producers will take over and do a Touriga Nacional for a lower cost and just as good quality in a few years time.

One af the many great Portuguese blends

Now this is a very simplistic break down of the argument, but it gives you an idea of the hard decisions wineries must take when they plant, grown, tend and then harvest the grapes to make wine. I think I have said something similar to before in another post… If everyone made the same wine, I for one would not have anything more to say about wine than “it has alcohol in it and it tastes nice with food”. Now, these two points are great, but what is even better is the diversity Portugal’s wine offers to wine drinkers. I know many other countries offer this too, but Portugal offers something mysterious with its many native grapes, which will be new to many people. Why would you want to limit the consumer’s exposure to Portugal’s wines to just one grape?

“But Parker gave a Touriga Nacional the highest rating of all Portuguese wines”, I here you say. Single variety wines will always appeal to wine critics. but this is purely because they are wine critics! They can easily be critical about single varietals… They find it harder to be critical about an excellent blended wine because there are so many different variables that go into it. They cannot so easily say why one is better than another. That is the thing that makes most Portuguese wine so interesting. There is often little intellectualizing of them past the percentages of each grape in the wine. I simply appreciate them for what they are; good (often great) excellently valued wines. Isn’t that what most consumers want?

So if you pose the question to me, I would say this… Market Touriga Nacional as a small part of a very big whole. Use it to highlight winery brands. These are the most important things to be in the public eye – not a grape… If a consumer likes that winery’s Touriga Nacional, then they may try their Trincadeira, their Alvarinho, their Aragonez, or even enjoy their blended reservas. The wineries are the people, you must remember, who are making the great wines. If it were not for them, the wine would not be marketable whatever grape goes into it.

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7 comments to Touriga Nacional – Should it be a Flagship Wine

  • Very nice post. I agree with the arguments presented in the “cons”. An interesting asset for PT wines is exactly the blend, and the tradition for the blend of its many native grapes.

  • Thanks Anders! You never know though… The market might be just waiting for the next “cool new grape”, but still I don’t think it is possible for Portugal to take full advantage, even if it were to explode on the market. The grape is also grown in Australia – mainly in the Rutherglen region – and they could take advantage of this quicker than they could in Portugal.

  • Antonia

    Flagships are like brands: not true, just advertisement. I think the original idea was to promote a name that relates directly to Portugal. Of course I agree the blends are the best. Trouble rises, when a gag becomes an official issue…

  • Thanks Antonia, we will see how it pans out. I hope it improves the image of Portugal with the wider wine drinking community, but as you say the blends are the best…

  • Just wanted to say you have a great site and thanks for posting!

  • Ï run a small austrian blog and would like to use some of your article in my next post, is that possible? I’ll link back of course.

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