Hedonism Meets... Dirk Niepoort

Dirk Niepoort is one of Portugal's most respected winemakers

A celebrated name on the Portuguese wine scene, the history of Niepoort spans five generations, tracing its roots as far back as 1842. Boasting a magnificent portfolio of both fortified and still wines, from the single vineyard Vintage Port, Bioma Vinha Velha, to the wonderfully elegant red blend ‘Charme’, Niepoort showcases the crème de la crème of Portuguese winemaking. The ‘Nat´Cool’ project meanwhile is an innovative concept initiated by Niepoort, where different producers have come together to create light and easy-to-drink wines. We catch up with Dirk Niepoort, at the helm of the family business since 2005.

“We work mostly in Douro, Bairrada and Dão, but we recently started a project in Portalegre and Vinho Verde.”

 

The history of Niepoort goes back five generations to 1842. Did you always know you were going to continue in the family business, or had you considered an alternate career path?

I was never pressured into working at Niepoort but I never really thought about doing anything else...

Niepoort makes many wines across Portugal, including still and fortified. Can you give us a brief overview of your portfolio?

I have often been asked how many wines we make…too many perhaps…but this is part of Niepoort’s DNA. We work mostly in Douro, Bairrada and Dão, but we recently started a project in Portalegre and Vinho Verde.

How much of your portfolio is dedicated to fortified wine production vs. still wine production?

While Port sales have increased gradually over the last 30 years, today still wines account for 80% of our turnover.

Niepoort are famous for both their fortified wines and their still wines

Is your winemaking approach unified across all your properties?

Yes! Less is more! We do not use cultured yeast or nutrients. We really do make the wines as natural as possible; in fact, we only use some SO2. We try to understand and respect the different terroirs as much as possible.

One of your first steps when you joined your father in the business in 1987 was to purchase your first estate vineyards. Why was this important to you?

I guess it was important to be able to "play around" and make some wine ourselves.

Is there a particular wine (or particular vintage in general) you are most proud of?

Vintage Port 2017.

What is unique about winemaking in Portugal, and in particular the Douro Valley?

Apart from old vines and many local varieties, there are many wonderful cultural traditions, which should be acknowledged, preserved and kept alive.

You've been on a path towards biodynamics. Can you tell us a bit about what got you interested in this and where you are today in terms of your approach in the vineyard?

We work 100% biodynamically in our own vineyards and BIO [organic] since 1999. Why? Because I think it is the only way to help save our planet. BIO [organic] is a MUST... It can be more or less difficult depending on the vineyard sites and year but in reality, it is just a technical question one gets used to - and it works. Biodynamics is not a technical issue it is a mental/attitude issue. You can only do it if you really believe in it. It is a way of life in many ways.

“They are fascinating, pure, authentic wines full of character and personality…”

 

Any exciting innovations or new wines to come that you can tell us about?

We just launched our single parcel wines from different areas: Dão, Douro and Bairrada, but also Mosel and soon Portalegre and Vinho Verde. They are fascinating, pure, authentic wines full of character and personality and a true reflection of where the vineyards are. There is the launch of a Nat´Cool VOYEUR 2019. Fantastic fresh vibrant Douro. The Nat´Cool project is just getting stronger and stronger with more and more producers from around the world joining this. We are about to launch a Dão Nat´Cool and we also held a Nat’Cool art contest.

Finally, what is one thing you wish that wine drinkers around the world knew about Portuguese wines?

The amazing diversity of wines, terroirs and varieties that exist with so many traditions resulting in amazing wines full of personality and identity. Portuguese wines (and of course Portuguese fortified wines) are overall very very long lasting and get better and better with age.

Quinta de Baixo Vinhas Velhas Branco Niepoort 2013
75 cl
Available
11

Quinta de Baixo Vinhas Velhas is a blend of Maria Gomes and Bical from several parcels of century-old vineyards grown on limestone soils and showcasing the incredible lightness and complexity of Bairr...

£39.90
Redoma Branco Niepoort 2018
75 cl
Available
10

The 2018 vintage of the Redoma Branco offers a more delicate and slightly less expressive character than previous vintages. Aromas of lime, ginger and some exotic fruits on the nose and a subtle hint ...

£25.50
Turris Niepoort 2016
75 cl
Available
3

With its violet colour and ruby hints, the Turris 2016 comes across astoundingly fresh and linear. Spicy aromas with notes of pink peppercorn and plenty of minerality mingle with hints of cassis and g...

£157.00
Robustus Niepoort 2009
75 cl
Available
6

A full-bodied, old vine red from Niepoort produced from a field blend of Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cao and more…

£105.00