Touriga Franca (or Touriga Francesa) indigenous to Portugal, is one of the major red grape varieties used to produce Port wine. Touriga Franca is related to the Touriga Nacional vine, though more fragile. The wines these two varieties produce are similar in character, but Touriga Franca is of slightly lesser concentration and colour and shows more elegance. Not much is known about the origins, but it is thought to be a cross of Mourisco de Semente and Touriga Nacional.
In 2001 the very important and indigenous Touriga Francesa was renamed Touriga Franca. On many bottles and in many a trade publication it is still referred to as Touriga Francesa and that is the reason for some confusion still with Port lovers. Touriga Franca is quite similar to Touriga Nacional, needing harsh conditions to keep vigour down as it gets on the steep arid slopes of the Douro. Yields are medium (1.5kg/vine), not as low as Touriga Nacional.
In Portugal, Touriga Franca is the fifth most planted grape, with approx 7,440 hectares. It plays an important part in Port blends - at 21%, it is the most widely planted of the Port producing vines. Touriga Franca is prized for its ability to ripen early as well as the unique mix of fruit and wildflowers that it contributes to Port wines. Increasingly Touriga Franca can be found as a single varietal wine or as part of the blends of still, dry wines that are gaining momentum in the Douro Valley and in the Dao.
Of moderate vigour and low productivity, it thrives in the hot soils of the Douro Valley's lower, relatively fertile, slopes where it is protected from wind. Though the grapes are thick-skinned, the bunches are delicate, and the fruit may not mature fully in very dry years if planted in arid soils. Very high in tannin and extremely highly scented, it is an important contributor of structure and balance. It shows an intense perfume of fresh red fruit, earth and flowers, and its overt fruitiness is repeated on the palate, preserving a marked grape quality in the wine as it ages.