About this WINE
While several notable Scots and English families (Graham, Warre and Taylor, for example) emigrated to the Douro valley in the 18th century, others from Port-importing countries did likewise, and the Niepoorts arrived from the Netherlands.
Dirk Niepoort now runs the firm, with a dedication and enthusiasm that has made him one of the most popular figures in the wine trade. Niepoort was formerly more well-known for its Colheita wines, the vintage tawny Ports that are not often exported.
Dirk has striven to improve the company's Vintage Ports; His vineyards were upgraded (notably most are farmed organically, without any pesticides and herbicides) and the winery completely revamped. As for the grape crushing, Dirk is a passionate advocate of the traditional method of 'treading' (by foot) to extract maximum colour and flavour. These efforts resulted in magnificent examples from recently declared years.
Niepoort Vintage Port has a style that can be appreciated when very young, though as it matures, the wine soon closes up and becomes as long-lived as any.
The company used to buy all its grapes from small growers but since the end of the 1980s, Niepoort has invested in their own quintas. In 1988 it purchased Nápoles, followed by Carril in 1989 and Quinta do Passadouro, an estate made up of four tiny quintas, in 1990.
Dirk Niepoort deserves the accolades he receives for his hard work, though this also means the company's wines have become increasingly scarce.
Single Quinta Vintage
Single Quinta Vintage Port is currently one of the most exciting Port categories, which could potentially challenge the dominance of true Vintage Port in years to come. Single Quinta Port is made in much the same way as Vintage: aged for two to three years in cask before bottling without filtration – and is generally produced from a Port house’s finest single vineyard, in years that are not declared. In a vintage year, the grapes from these vineyards – like Quinta dos Malvedos for Graham and Quinta de Vargellas for Taylor – will be used as the backbone of the blend and not bottled in their own right.
The more approachable, earlier-maturing Single Quinta Ports enable producers to satisfy demand for Vintage Port while retaining the rarity and caché of its top Port. Single Quinta Ports are not normally as good as true Vintage Port, but there are notable exceptions. Quinta do Vesuvio, Quinta do Noval and Quinta de la Rosa are all produced in vintage years and can be every bit good as their more famous, multi-vineyard rivals. Indeed the greatest and rarest Vintage Port in existence is from a single vineyard: Quinta do Noval Nacional.
Single Quinta Vintage Ports were traditionally sold when the Port house believed they were ready to drink, around eight to 10 years after the harvest, but as they become more serious and more popular, some are released as soon as they are bottled. Single Quinta Ports should be decanted before serving and, with some notable long-lived exceptions, generally age for around 15 to 20 years.
There are around 40 different grape varieties permitted in the production of Port - however the vast majority of Ports are produced from a blend of 5 grapes - Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinto Cão.
Touriga Nacional produces small, dark-skinned grapes that produce opaque black wines of great extract and high tannins - it gives grip, body, and structure to the blend.
Touriga Franca has a thinner skin and consequently produces wines lighter in colour and tannins than Touriga Nacional. It contributes fruit, aroma, suppleness and roundness.
Tinta Roriz is the Portuguese name for Tempranillo and its high sugar content and low acidity contribute colour and fruit.
Tinta Barroca which is normally grown at highish altitudes and on north-facing slopes, is prized for producing wines of delicacy, finesse and with smooth, velvety fruit. It brings elegance and sweet, ripe fruit to the final blend.
Finally Tinto Cão produces fine and complex wines, though it is probably the least important of the 5 grapes as its painfully small yields have reduced plantings to almost insignificant levels.
(Jancis Robinson MW - jancisrobinson.com – July 2002)