I’m inching my way toward a century of varietal wines, and this puts me at 70/100. I’ve actually hit 90 different grapes in total, but there are some grapes, Pinot Meunier for instance, which are only rarely found outside of a blend. (Great Western apparently does a good one.) Today’s wine is another example of a variety that’s very easy to find in a blend, but much less common on its own, the Old Mill Estate Touriga Nacional 2007.
Like most people, I first encountered Touriga Nacional when learning about fortified wines. It’s a black grape, thought to be native to the Dão region of Portugal, and widely considered the best of the five main grapes allowed in Port. While it is typically the first grape mentioned with regard to Port production, what’s slightly less well known is that within the Douro Valley it represents a tiny fraction of plantings, possibly as low as 2%. Many vineyards are field blends with different varieties intermingled, so it’s often difficult to know exactly.
It is highly regarded for the rich colour and intense concentration it brings to blends as well as structure through its high levels of tannins. However, despite being a vigorous vine, it is traditionally prone to low yields due to poor fruit set, which may be why it is not the most popular variety in the vineyard. Clonal selection improvements had mitigated the low yields to some extent, and the grape has been making inroads into other wine regions within Portugal as well as Australia. While best known as a component of fortified wine, there is a growing trend for it to be made into table wine.
This is the second post in this blog concerning a wine from Langhorne Creek, the first having been the Rusticana Zinfandel back in April, which has some detail on the region.
Old Mill Estate, as shown by the sheaf on the label, actually does have its origins in grain production. The property was initially a mill, making chaff out of lucerne. (That’s alfalfa to Americans – I had to look it up.) In 1992 the second highest recorded flood in the area destroyed the entire crop, prompting the owners, Peter and Vicki Widdop, to diversify by planting vines the following year. They initially started just as grape growers, but produced their own vintage in 2004. In 2006 they brought in John Glaetzer, something of an Australian legend, as a consultant winemaker.
I’m not sure if they still grow lucerne, but their grape plantings consist of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Touriga Nacional. Their wines include still, red varietals of each and a couple of blends, as well as a rosé and a sparkling wine both made from Touriga Nacional.
This wine is clear and bright in the glass, with a deep purple colour and quick stained legs. On the nose it’s clean, intense, and developing, with notes of raisins, plums, and sweet spice. It’s a very rich nose with ripe fruit. On the palate it’s dry, though heavily fruit sweet, with a medium plus body, medium plus intensity, medium alcohol, medium minus fine tannins, medium acidity, and medium plus length. There are notes of plum, sweet spice, black cherries, blackberries, and raisins.
This is a good wine – intensely fragrant, with great concentration and fruit flavours, though the acidity struggles to maintain balance. It’s very full and rich, almost too much so. I was told a story by a colleague about how he was so impressed when he first tasted Touriga Nacional as a table wine that he asked the winemaker why it wasn’t more popular. The reply was along the lines of “try to drink a bottle”. I feel similarly with this wine – it does have a fantastic impact but it’s somewhat overwhelming after a glass or two. Still, I’d rather be overwhelmed than underwhelmed.