When I think of Dirk van der Niepoort and his support staff, the image conjured up is of a superbly creative team, seemingly headed in too many directions, yet they manage to excel on all cylinders.

Fiercely independent, strong willed and with a cunning sense of humor, Niepoort has quickly risen to the forefront of the Douro wine movement, while never losing a qualitative step in regards to the Ports on which his family-owned enterprise built its reputation.

I have known Dirk for the better part of a decade now and have visited him numerous times at his Vila Nova de Gaia Port Lodge, his monumental Quinta da Nápoles property in the Douro and at his home. We first met in Vancouver and the first wine he ever poured for me was from a bottle of 1863 Colheita. Niepoort’s willingness to openly discuss his wines and projects is matched by his generosity of time, accessibility and impressive knowledge of wines from around the world. He is not only a winemaking entrepreneur, but an astute wine traveler and a charismatic spokesman for his own portfolio, as well as the wine and Ports of a close knit group known as “The Douro Boys.”

Dirk’s achievements are many, but along with creating one of the most progressive new winemaking facilities in the Douro; I find it quite remarkable that he is able to stay focused, while producing the greatest array of high end wines and Ports in the entire region. In addition to growing “non-traditional” wine grapes in the Douro, such as Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (yes, in the Douro!) Niepoort also produces a full range of white and red Douro DOC wines that have gained worldwide acclaim. That by itself would be rewarding enough for most people or even large wine companies. Yet Dirk is a driven individual who likes to challenge himself with a seemingly crushing production and travel schedule, while also producing some astoundingly solid Ports across all categories. Niepoort’s LBVs, 10 & 20 year old Tawnies and Vintage Ports are all top tier worthy, yet it does not stop there. The specialties of Niepoort are its legendary Colheita and the Garrafeira Port bottlings, the latter no longer vinified by any other producer in Portugal’s rugged Douro region.

NIEPOORT AT-A-GLANCE

Founded: 1842
Website: Niepoort Vinhos
Address: Rua de Serpa Pinto 278, 4400-307 Vila Nova de Gaia
Phone: +351 222-001-028
Owners: The Niepoort Family
Winemakers: Dirk Niepoort, Luis Seabra and Nick Delaforce

Join the converation with other FTLOP Forum readers discussing their favorite Niepoort Vintage Ports.

NIEPOORT TASTING NOTES:

Late Bottled Vintage

2000 Niepoort Late Bottled Vintage Port – Medium ruby color, light to medium bodied with spicy and approachable sweet raspberry fruit, tar and cedar. Soft and seemingly more mature than a 2000 LBV. The 2000 offers an elegant and easy-to-drink style and not the big fruit forward or tannic LBV type. I particularly liked the aftertaste that lingered longer than most LBVs normally do. 89 points

2001 Niepoort Late Bottled Vintage Port – Purplish-ruby and fully opaque. Pure essence of boysenberry, grapes and a touch of youthful spirit initially, that faded after a couple of days. Primary plum and grape flavors prevail on the palate with such purity that this LBV is almost transparent. It is great to find a young LBV of this quality, although I am not sure if this has been released in the USA as of yet. Bottled in 2006, it probably won’t be around for a few months or so, but as soon as it becomes available, I’m grabbing some! Medium-full body weight with all the stuffing one needs, gentle tannins and a zesty acidity level. Mouth coating and delicious, what more do you need to know? Drink upon release and through 2015. 92+ points

2003 Niepoort Late Bottled Vintage Port – Spicy, soft and generously fruited with raspberry flavors. Easy to enjoy now and given the solid structure, this will drink well for over a decade. The finish was long and provided chewy tannins which showed up late in the game. Delicious juice! 92+ points

Tawny Port

Niepoort 10 Year Old Tawny Port – A light strawberry color not all that different than the Senior in its hue. That is where the comparison ends. This shows significantly more influence from the small pipes used in the aging. Niepoort’s Jose Nogueira (responsible for blending Ports) was sitting with us while we tasted it. Great texture and a gentle almond flavor were quite enjoyable. The finish was longer and with a better, more complex aftertaste than most other Ports in this category. 91 points

Colheita Port

1863 Niepoort Colheita Port - Was bottled for the first time in 1972 into demijohns and then bottled and recorked 3 years ago. It is the oldest Port in the Niepoort lodge and my second time trying it. Coincidentally, I have had five different Ports and Madeiras from this particular vintage. Dark and Mahogany like in color, with such vibrancy that one would never guess this could be over 150 years old. It was produced during the heart of the Civil War Gettysburg took place that year. I was most impressed by the dense, concentrated fruit but more so by the lively acidity of the wine. This is not a shy, wall flower either. It provides a unique intricacy and tertiary, savory flavors which were quite sweet but had such wonderful nuances of toffee, caramel and a lovely smooth nuttiness. The finish was as decadent as any Colheita or VP I have tasted. A very special wine and an unforgettable experience. For those just learning about older Port, I have had my share of duds from the 1800′s too, so just because they are old… certainly does not mean they will be good. I always pay attention to the acidity in these old Ports. 97 points

1912 Niepoort Colheita Port – This brings back a fond memory of a long lost friend, Paul Napolitano from NY. He once opened this identical Port for me years ago at his home and at the time, it was the finest Colheita I had experienced, as well as the oldest. This one was bottled in 1976 or 1977. A piece is torn off the label and makes it impossible to be certain. Dark coffee color with a greenish edge. Is this Madeira? A nose of bouillon cube, scents of sea breeze and toffee, reminiscent of a Malvasia and the richness and supple spine live up to that mindset. The palate is packed with copious caramel and fig flavors along with prunes and toffee intricately woven into a neat little package. Intense and unctuous layers unfold into one of the most decadent Colheitas of the weekend. I loved this one and the finish is absolutely sick. How can anyone question whether these improve in bottle? 97+ points

1934 Niepoort Colheita Port - Bottled 1972 – caramel color and showing intensity of fruit and a touch of VA that adds character to this wine. The 1934 Colheita shows tangy acidity from the reduction and also provides added complex layers of sweet hazelnut, butterscotch and toffee flavors that just swirl around in the mouth providing luscious, textural and hedonistic pleasure. The finish on this ’34 is incredible, as it shows a slightly dry and nutty Madeira-like, warm and silky aftertaste. This is one of the finest and most memorable bottlings of Colheita I have consumed. 97 points

1959 Niepoort Colheita Port – This was my first time trying this Colheita and it was extraordinary. Light amber in color. Notes of toffee, over ripe pineapple and hazelnuts swirl within the glass and are exotic. The liquid pralines and hedonistic caramelized essence of this juice was remarkably unctuous on the palate with a long and very smooth finish. I woke up the next day still thinking about this Port! 95 points

Vintage Port

1927 Niepoort Vintage Port - This was the third consecutive Niepoort Vintage Port and a pattern was emerging … excellence! The Niepoort family of Ports rarely garners sufficient critical acclaim, nor do they seek it out. In my opinion, they have made great Ports in most of the key vintages of the 20th century and SHOULD be regarded in the upper echelon of Port Shippers. We have tasted their old vintages here, but the 1992, 1994 and 1997 vintages are equally awe inspiring. James Suckling likened Niepoort’s Vintage Ports to Krug Champagne, which is aptly analogous and spot on. As much as I do thoroughly enjoy Niepoort VP, their Colheitas are exceptional and have few rivals; Kopke is the only name that comes to mind at this level. The 1863, 1912 and 1935 Niepoort Colheitas still stand as some of the very best I’ve ever tasted. Exquisite craftsmanship by Dirk’s grandfather, this bottle of ’27 came from the Niepoort cellar and was re-corked 25 years ago in Gaia. It was dark reddish-chestnut in color with some bricking on the rim. There was a noticeable dead silence as the group approached this ponderous wine. Descriptors are not capable of describing the hedonistic nature of this Port. This was POTN for many of the guests and I am sure that some felt, the Port of the weekend. Blind, I would have guessed a Port from the 1955 vintage. Rich, big and sweet with tertiary flavors of caramel, raisins and prunes; this is one outstanding Port that still has the stuffing to hang on for at least another decade and may even see its 100th birthday. The structure impresses, but the finish overwhelms. 98 points

1970 Niepoort Vintage Port – Initially, upon opening this wine the color is a very brilliant orange-tawny hue. This dramatically changes when decanted for a number of hours. It becomes a generous medium ruby color with an orange rim. The 1970 Niepoort was not part of the formal tasting, but was included as dessert at Saturday night’s excellent wine dinner. Additionally, I had a few glasses of this rich and lively wine at varying times during the weekend as it is not found easily in the USA. I have only had it once before, while in Portugal at a dinner with the Niepoort family. The 1970 has some lush cherry fruit and mocha lingers on the finish. It is an evolved 1970, yet is still quite vibrant and atypical in comparison to some of the other great names from this exquisite vintage. Other tasters found this to be more youthful than I did. I enjoyed its development and complexity and put it in the top 6 wines of the exalted ’70 vintage. Dirk’s father Rolf was the winemaker at the time and he should be very proud of this wonderful achievement. 95 points

2000 Niepoort Vintage Port – Although this is even sweeter than the Secundum, it is a very different type of Vintage Port. This Niepoort is quite a dark crimson color that only begins to show the greatness of this wine which was mostly foot trodden in lagar. I love watching the development here and have tasted it every six months since it was bottled. Presently a bit closed but not yet fully shut down, it is a massive and unctuous Port with puckering tannins that will provide great grip for your grandchildren’s drinking pleasure. It offers surprising complexity given its youth and its greatness comes from the deft balance every bit as much as from the dark berry flavor profile. This 2000 VP is my favorite of the entire vintage and will eventually take its rightful place alongside legendary Niepoort Vintage Ports such as 1927 and 1945. This beauty will cellar for at least five decades, and is certainly one of the 3 greatest VPs from the Niepoort stable in the past century. 97+ points

2003 Niepoort Vintage Port – Niepoort’s ‘03 never fails to deliver at a very high level and this bottle was certainly no exception. Massively concentrated dark berry juice from an extremely hot harvest, with dense and scrumptious spicy blueberry flavors. Whoa baby, this is a stunning infant with a solid four+ decades of aging potential and a sexy smooth texture. This bottle shows consistently with previous tastings and exhibits powerful tannins, a ton of acidity and a long, memorable finish. Niepoort has done it again, with one of the truly great VPs from this stellar young vintage. 96+ points