Dirk Niepoort, a 5th generation winemaker and Portugal’s leading producer, has ‘helped transform the region and the way the world thinks about wine’ according to Wine & Spirits Magazine. While much of the Douro’s movement into table wines over the last 2 decades has meant Parker-chasing, ‘port-like’ reds, Dirk’s wines have been different from the start. Harnessing old vineyards inter-planted with a multitude of indigenous varieties, his traditionally-made field blends have lower alcohols and offer a freshness that belies the warm climate. In fact, his revolutionary wines are not unlike the new-wave South African wines shaking up the international scene.
As one of the world’s best travelled-producers, Dirk fell in love with SA and designed a label for his entry-level white and red – Ubuntu!
The Ubuntu Tinto 2015 completely over-delivers in the rich 2015 vintage. A field blend of up to 60 grape varieties, it has ample texture with a superb balance between earthiness and fruit. The Ubuntu Branco 2016 is crisp and fragrant; think of a cross between a Rhône white and Loire Chenin. Both are solid and delicious rather than quirky and age remarkably well too.
It is difficult to keep up with all of Dirk’s projects. He is always searching out exciting terroirsand new collaborations. The real must-tries are the wines from Dirk’s partnership with Raúl Pérez, Bierzo’s winemaking superstar. Mencia is an exciting ancient variety from north-west Spain and offers fragrant, medium-bodied wines similar to Cabernet Franc. The Ladredo is a Mencia-based blend from Ribeira Sacra and shows Niepoort’s typical texture along with a Spanish flair. The Conciso Tinto is Dirk’s expression of the Dão region while the Lagar de Baixo is made from the Baga variety from Bairrada. The latter comes in at 11% alcohol and Dirk reckons its Portugal’s answer to Pinot Noir.
Redoma Tinto was his first Douro table wine and, along with the Vertente Tinto, this is a thrilling and expressive mixed case that may change your view on Portuguese and Spanish wines. View the full list of Niepoort wines.
Niepoort, Ubuntu Tinto 2015 – R 165
The 2015 [Ubuntu] red is a Douro field blend with modest oak treatment. It is a particularly nice deal this year. This is what I call a ‘summer red’ these days. Pure, clean and on the lighter side, it has vivid fruit and tons of flavor. It also has the acidity to support the fruit and lift it, without a big hit of alcohol. You can drink this very elegant red a bit cooler than normal if you wish, but it has just enough stuffing to hold up to food, too. This has a ceiling – because I don’t expect it to turn into anything more interesting – but at the moment, it is remarkably appealing, perhaps my favorite [Ubuntu] red ever. It will hold a reasonable time, but it won’t likely reward the effort of holding it. Dive in. Revel in its freshness and purity. At the moment, you might think it is underrated. Drink 2017-23. – Wine Advocate, 88/100
Niepoort, Ubuntu Branco 2016 – R 165
Notes on the 2015 vintage: The 2015 [Ubuntu] Branco is pretty fine at the lower end of Niepoort’s price scale. Showing fine concentration and a little complexity, this is fresh and lively while still possessed of the concentration to hold up to foods. It is a nice performance for the [Ubuntu] brand, with its funny cartoons on the label. This will age, I suspect, better than most think, but it won’t be overly interesting when it is no longer fresh. So, dive in. Drink 2017-21. – Wine Advocate, 89/100
Niepoort and Pérez, Calderera Mencia 2013 – R 495
The 2013 Calderera Mencía felt very balsamic, with aromas of incense, aromatic herbs and wild strawberries. It is Mencía mostly from slate soils but with some grapes grown in a different zone where the soils are rich in sand. The palate shows electric acidity and a fine minerality; it has a nice texture and very long finish. There are 1,500 bottles of this wine. Drink 2016-22. – Wine Advocate, 93/100
Niepoort and Pérez, Ladredo 2013 – R 495
The 2013 Ladredo is produced by Niepoort from Douro/Porto in Portugal from the Ladredo vineyard from Guímaro in the village of Sober. It fermented with some 60% full clusters. I tasted an unbottled sample last year, so I decided to wait until it had some bottle age as I often find a slight lack of precision in unbottled samples and I’m very reluctant to taste wines before they are finished. Even after some time in bottle, it showed a little dizzy, riper and more volatile than the 2014. This 2013 is wilder and more rustic, with some dusty tannins. Drink 2016-22. – Wine Advocate, 92/100
Niepoort, Conciso Tinto 2014 – R 495
How does Niepoort manage to get such low alcohol and lovely fruit flavours? Mid ruby. Lifted sweet red cherry fruit, showing the Baga component. So fragrant. Fine, soft but compact tannins, gently chewy now but already accessible. Dry but fresh and succulent. – Jancis Robinson, 16.5/20
Niepoort, Vertente Tinto 2014 – R 275
The 2014 Vertente is a familiar Douro blend from Niepoort, often one of the winery’s best values. I’m not so sure this year. Rather light and rather dry, it is lacking the exuberant fruit of the 2013 (granting that I do not have them side-by-side). It still shows fine freshness. As it airs, some of that fruitiness that I remember from other years comes to the foreground and it becomes much more pleasing. If there isn’t much concentration, it has fine structure for its level and a clean, pure finish. The structure, acidity and silky feel are all pretty good and notably better than the fruit and depth. Overall, in a difficult vintage, this modestly priced red does pretty well. Understated but intriguing, this should make a very nice house pour. I usually think that these can age well, but I’m not sure this has the concentration to do that. Still, there should be no rush, even if it drinks nicely now. – Wine Advocate, 87/100
Niepoort, Redoma Tinto 2014 – R 495
The 2014 Redoma, Niepoort’s field blend from old vines, is one of my favorite Douro blends, but it seems to fall a bit short in this tough vintage. Light and a little too easy, its best feature is the vivid fruit flavor. Not many 2014s can say that. All too many of them are dry, stern and stolid. This, at least, tastes great. It does seem a bit off its normal mark otherwise, not showing enough concentration. The structure is just average. Its fresh and lively feel still makes it a pleasure to drink, though. It won’t go down as a great Redoma, but it is certainly a pleasing one in a tough year and a perfect food wine. Drink 2018-27. – Wine Advocate, 90/100
Niepoort, Lagar de Baixo 2014 – R 275
Notes on the 2015 vintage: 100% Baga. Lagar fermented but not foot trodden. Aged in old vats. Mid cherry red. Sour red cherry and a hint of almonds. Sweet cherry on the palate, seductive sweetness balanced with Baga’s fresh acidity. Tannins are fine and chalky but smoothing nicely. Long and fresh. Baga in a relatively gentle but vital style. Drink 2016-25.
– Jancis Robinson, 17/20