There is a revolution happening in the Douro, and Dirk Niepoort is leading the troops. For centuries this part of Portugal has been known only for its port, but today, many of these Portuguese winemakers are beginning to make red and white table wines with the same grapes that have traditionally only been used for ports.
Dirk was born in 1964 to a traditional Port family that has been in business since 1842. The first wine Dirk participated in making was the Niepoort Vintage Porto of 1987. At the time, the family owned no vineyards, and had to source all its wine and grapes from other growers. Since then, he took over the management of the winery and set to purchasing top, old-vine, steep vineyards to secure top quality grapes. He also started a project of making dry wines, from these prized, generally north-facing vineyards. The Niepoort house still keeps a complete line-up of Porto wines, ranging from Tawny to Colheita and Garrafeira (a tawny aged in 10L glass bottles, that only Niepoort makes), and from Ruby to Vintage. The dry wines, which now make up about 75% of the winery's production, include whites Redoma and Redoma Reserva, and reds Vertente, Redoma, Batuta, and Charmes.
Today, the Niepoort family owns 80 HA of vines in the Douro, all farmed organically. They also have purchased some truly amazing, old vine vineyards in Bairrada, Dao and Vino Verde. Dirk also now has vineyards in the Mosel in Germany, which he vinifies with his two sons.
Wine & Spirits magazine named Dirk as one of 50 "Most Influential Winemakers of 2004," saying that "what sets Niepoort apart is his skill at building networks, pathways of communication. Over the last ten years, the Douro may have produced an increasing range of great table wine, but the wines have remained a Portuguese phenomenon. Niepoort has actively worked to raise their visibility, helping João Roseira of Quinta do Infantado to establish the annual Dão-Douro tasting, an event that brings together all the best winemakers of the two regions to taste each other's new vintage.
"Despite his varied projects...Niepoort never seems particularly stressed. His eye is still on his Niepoort wines, which only seem to get better....Dirk Niepoort has not only transformed his family's company, he's helped transform the region and the way the world thinks about wine."
Furthermore, the same magazine named Niepoort "Winery of the Year." Ray Isle wrote, "[Niepoort's] wines, while being some of the best the Douro has to offer, unfortunately haven't gotten as much attention in the US as they deserve — in part because quantities are so extraordinarily limited. But make no mistake: this is remarkable juice."