When the Niepoort family moved from Holland to the Douro region of Portugal in 1842, one of the great Port houses of Oporto began. And in 1987, as the fifth generation to make fortified wines for the family business, Dirk Niepoort started following a brand-new path. Considered a true Renaissance man, Dirk continues to make Port using the same traditional methods as his ancestors while also leading the way as one of Portugal’s most innovative, creative, and exciting producers of dry table wine.
Towards the end of the 1980s, Dirk convinced his father to let him purchase Quinta de Nápoles, one of the oldest wineries in the region, and Quinta do Carril with their 60-year-old vineyards. He also began a lifelong quest to purchase old-vine vineyards with the express purpose of making unfortified wines – a move that was considered practically revolutionary at the time. In 1991 he released his first Douro dry wine, Redoma Tinto. This innovation has paid off in spades, as the Douro is now widely recognized both for its table wines and its Ports. Today, the Niepoort family owns 80 hectares of vines in the Douro, farmed organically, and incorporates biodynamic principles. Since 2012, they have expanded even further, purchasing incomparable, old vineyards in Bairrada, Dao, Vinho Verde, and most recently, Alentejo. Another vital aspect of Dirk’s respect for tradition is the family relationship with the Nogueira family. Working with the Niepoorts for five generations, the family has been the master blenders of their Port wines since the estate was founded. It is an essential distinguishing element in the continued healthy respect of family and tradition that differentiates Niepoort in an evolving region.
Dirk’s winemaking philosophy embodies his love of cuisine and wine. The wines are lower in alcohol, lighter, fresher, and balanced, which results in a more drinkable-styled wine with minimal new oak influence. Dirk has put both the family estate and the entire region on the map for wine. A member of the Douro Boys, he has been instrumental in bringing attention and sharing knowledge of this incredible and diverse region of old vines and unique terroir. He is a pioneer of modern approaches — creating artistic labels and new marketing and selling practices — and a healthy respect for traditional, classic winemaking methods. Now the estate is making room for the sixth generation, with son Daniel joining the family business in 2020. Two generations are working side by side to learn from the other as it has been since the beginning. Though Niepoort is rich in history and tradition, in some ways, you could say its future has just begun.
Best known for intense, impressive and age-worthy fortified wines, Portugal relies almost exclusively on its many indigenous grape varieties. Bordering Spain to its north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean on its west and south coasts, this is a land where tradition reigns supreme, due to its relative geographical and, for much of the 20th century, political isolation. A long and narrow but small country, Portugal claims considerable diversity in climate and wine styles, with milder weather in the north and significantly more rainfall near the coast.
While Port (named after its city of Oporto on the Atlantic Coast at the end of the Douro Valley), made Portugal famous, Portugal is also an excellent source of dry red and white Portuguese wines of various styles.
The Douro Valley produces full-bodied and concentrated dry red Portuguese wines made from the same set of grape varieties used for Port, which include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, among a long list of others in minor proportions.
Other dry Portuguese wines include the tart, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde white wine, made in the north, and the bright, elegant reds and whites of the Dão as well as the bold, and fruit-driven reds and whites of the southern, Alentejo.
The nation’s other important fortified wine, Madeira, is produced on the eponymous island off the North African coast.
This dark-skinned, Portugese variety creates powerful red wines with great color, structure and finesse and is specially prominent in the Bairrada and Dão regions. Somm Secret—Because of its ample acidity and striking color, Baga also makes a great rosé; much of it from the Bairrada ends up in this style.