by Treve Ring | If I had to pick the winemaker that has had the greatest impact on not only Douro Valley’s dry (not Port) wines, but Portuguese wines in general, it would be Dirk Niepoort. Easily one of the world’s top winemakers, Dirk’s insight extends beyond soils, grapes and blends to humans, predicting and driving the wines that a generation of keen folks are interested in drinking.
Niepoort 2014 Dialogo | Douro Valley, Portugal | $20
While upholding his family’s history in Port wine, dating back to 1842, this fifth generation Niepoort has led the path for future generations to follow in dry wines. Independent, low-interventionist winemaking (biodynamic practices since 2012), earlier picking times and clever marketing have created fresh wines both inside and outside of the bottle.
There is little Dirk’s ceaseless mind hasn’t touched: natural, sparkling and highly experimental wine, the latter category exemplified by Clos de Crappe (see a short clip of Jamie Goode and I shooting the shit with Dirk about this wine here).
One of the Fabulous Wines series, Dialogo red (along with its white sibling) is enjoyed around the world under many different names. The line was begun in 2004 when Dirk wanted an appealing Douro label for the German market. Working with his designer, they devised a whole comic storyboard label called FABELHAFT.
After the success in German markets, Dirk developed labels for many other countries including Canada (Dialogo), Drink Me (UK), and Twisted (USA). As you can expect with such a global spread, this is a bright, accessible wine. Youthful raspberry, blackberry, wild blueberry, thorns ride a juicy and jubilant palate, brought back to earth by earthy, savoury and youthfully fierce, fine tannins. Based on indigenous Poruguese grapes touriga franca, tinta roriz, touriga nacional, tinta amarela and tinta barroca, the destemmed grapes fermented in stainless, where 95 percent remained for a year (the remainder in older French oak barrels). This achieves enough savoury seriousness while achieving juicy drinkability – no small feat.