Niepoort

The Douro Valley

Five generations of the Niepoort family have propelled their independent family winery to fame since its inception in 1842. The Niepoorts are originally from the Netherlands, historically a great port-importing nation, but like many Dutch entrepeneurs at the time, Franciscus Marius van der Niepoort moved his family to Portugal to establish his own port house. His future generations both continued and improved upon his legacy, and in 2005, the current generation - Dirk and his sister Verena - took to the helm.

Dirk has actually been working for Niepoort since 1987, assisting his father Rolf with both maintaining tradition and bringing the winery into the 21st century. It was Dirk who insisted the family buy back their own vineyards back in 1987. They purchased 25 hectares, 15 of which were new vines and 10 of which are 60 years old, planted on granite soils. The vineyards are protected by the surrounding mountains, but the climate is still a harsh one: summers are scorching, but the winters can be freezing. The Niepoort vineyards produce some of the finest Douro red and white wines, with many at higher altitudes allowing a longer, cooler ripening period.

Dirk remains at the forefront of Douro table wine production - he has been producing the famous Redoma since 1991 with great success - and he is well-known for his production of wines with an excellent balance between forcefulness and elegance. He also has a non-interventionist approach to winemaking: he uses no enzymes, cultured yeast or added acid. His winery at Rio Tedo in the Douro Valley is a reflection of this environmentally-friendly approach: completed in 2007, it is a stunning, curved building that fits in with its natural surroundings.

Dirk wanted a winery that looked natural, and artificial air-conditioning is used minimally and with as much efficiency as possible. Dirk is also well-known for collaborating in the production of 'Project' wines with growers outside of the Douro; notably, with Telmo Rodriguez in Spain, Dorli Muhr and Craig Hawkins in Austria, as well as Docil Vinho Verde. Niepoort are also open to having fun: their Niepoortland range of ports - called Ruby Dum and Tawny Dee - are inspired by Alice in Wonderland, and they've even created a vintage port board game.

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