The talented and hyperactive enfant terrible
It’s impossible to count all the projects Dirk Niepoort is developing, either directly or as a mischievous instigator, in Portugal and internationally. His endless curiosity and passion for terroir have fuelled the creation of an impressive range of iconic wines, through which he revolutionised the winemaking legacy of both his family and country.
Location: Douro, Portugal (and endless other places)
Viticultural standards: Organic and Biodynamic (non-certified)
Interesting fact: Many of the young winemakers that, early in their careers, worked under Dirk Niepoort have built a solid reputation of their own, very much supported by his nurture, support and guidance. Good examples are Carmelo Peña Santana, the mastermind of Bien de Altura, and Luis Pedro Cândido da Silva, next generation at the helm of Quinta da Carolina.
The Niepoort family started shipping Port in 1842. They have remained an independent family-run business ever since, with a longstanding international reputation for the quality and purity of their fortified wines. But it was not until Dirk, fifth generation at the helm of the company, introduced a novel approach that Niepoort’s trajectory changed, revolutionising not only the company’s model but also the image of Portuguese wine worldwide. He transformed the company business from Port shipper to one of Portugal’s most iconic producers of both fortified and still wines.
Dirk’s first crucial step was to purchase the family’s first own vineyards in 1987 – Quinta de Nápoles and Quinta do Carril in Cima Corgo, the Douro sub-region known to produce the best Port Wines. 15 hectares of vineyards were newly planted while 10 hectares of 60-year old vines were carefully maintained. This served as the springboard for the development of a more idiosyncratic fresh style of Port and to the creation of the now extensive and impressive range of still wines Dirk has become so famous for. The new Era started in 1991 with the release of the first Redoma red.
His passion for wine and his extensive knowledge, both as winemaker and taster, of the world’s best producers and terroirs inform his endless and restless curiosity. While he started by exploring the full potential and expressiveness of the Douro, he has since expanded the family’s holdings to two other Portuguese regions: Dão and Bairrada. These form the Niepoort Triangle of terroirs: Schist (Douro), Limestone (Bairrada) and Granite (Dão).
Niepoort’s identity – that of the man and of the wine range – is also shaped by his many friendships, partnerships and collaborations. Dirk’s natural ability to capture people’s imaginations and forge relationships is matched by his hyperactive nature and inability to say no to new projects. His portfolio now includes an extensive list of special projects made in other regions, both within Portugal and beyond, and in collaboration with other winemakers. Among his accomplices are other iconic winemakers as well as talented newcomers, that Dirk is keen to support and nurture.
Dirk’s impact on how Portuguese wine and terroirs are perceived, at home and around the world, cannot be underestimated. By bringing a disruptive but extremely well-informed international perspective, he has allowed for a purer and modern understanding of Portugal’s regions and grapes, firmly anchored in a humble understanding of tradition.