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The Douro wine revolution
Part 10: Quinta de Nápoles

The view from Nápoles

The next morning, American wine journalist Ray Isle and I hitched a lift with Miguel Roquette to Dirk Niepoort’s Quinta de Nápoles on the Rio Tedo, where we met up with Dirk, Jorge Serôdio Borges, Tomas Roquette and Jorge Moreira. When Niepoort purchased this Quinta in 1987, it had 10 hectares of old vines. Another 15 ha were subsequently planted, taking the total vineyard area to 25 ha. A year later, Niepoort also purchased the neighbouring Quinta do Carril, whose old vines previously contributed to Redoma but which are now a key source of Batuta. The focus of attention, however, was not wine but football: kicking off at 10 am was the long-awaited world cup opener for Portugal, against the USA.    

The vineyards

This was serious business. We joked that Ray’s life would be in danger should the unfancied USA side gain a shock victory, but none of us thought this was at all likely. The atmosphere was a little strained as the USA took the lead, and it became progressively more so as Ray’s compatriots added a second and then a third goal. Oops. They were a slightly subdued bunch by the time we went to taste from the barrels, but this wasn’t to last for long: it’s hard to stay glum tasting wines as impressive as these.

Redoma 2001

First of all, the whites. Dirk buys white grapes from vineyards above 400 m: in the hot Douro this is the best way to get good quality white grapes with decent acidity. The wines are vinified vineyard by vineyard, and those from the best vineyards are given more new oak than the others. Dirk’s whites tend to be overshadowed a bit by his reds, but these are pretty serious wines with great balance and lots of character. All these wines are from the 2001 vintage.

Barrel 1 Nice minerality with good acidity. Very savoury and not too much oak showing.

Barrel 2 From the same grower this is a different vineyard. Old vines. A deeper colour, this is spicier, with a smoky edge to the nose. Chunky, savoury palate with good minerality and a bit of wood on the finish.

Barrel 3 From older vines (over 100 years old) and very low yields. Intense savoury, spicy nose with a lemony twist, showing some acidity. The palate is very woody at the moment; dry and savoury.

Barrel 4 Same grower as 3, some granitic soils. Remarkable tight herby, spicy nose, which is very herby and mineralic. Chunky, savoury mineralic palate still showing wood.

Barrel 5 From Dirk’s favourite white wine vineyard, this one is still fermenting. Very lemony, lean and acidic this is serious stuff from 100 year old vines.

Barrel 6 This is unusual: a TBA from an old vineyard that was affected by botrytis. Half the grapes were botrytised and half were raisined. Lovely apricot and peach fruit on the nose. Lush-textured palate with good acidity and quite a bit of wood. Quite sweet. Appley edge.

Then on to the reds. A stunning set of components here for the four Niepoort red wines, even though 2001 was a relatively tricky vintage.  


Barrel 1 2001 Nápoles, a single Quinta wine from the 13 year old vines, foot-trodden and fermented in lagares. Deep vivid purple colour. Lovely forward nose is fruity, rich and intense. Lovely intensity on the palate with great balance, showing vivid blackcurrant and red fruits. A big wine this is stunningly good. Savoury and tight. Excellent

Barrel 2 2001 Nápoles. Much more blackcurrant fruit. Very good acidity and lots of wood. Very tannic and with high acidity. Not quite as nice as the first barrel.

Quinta do Carril

Barrel 3 2001 Redoma. From old vines, mostly north facing vineyards, this is fermented in stainless steel. Vivid purple/black colour. Very bright with high acidity. Savoury and herbal this is very tannic. Excellent

Barrel 4 2001 Batuta. Made from 60 year old vines. An opaque purple/black colour this is wonderfully intense, displaying huge concentration. A rich, ripe wine with firm tannins, savoury character and herbal complexity. Good acidity and quite elegant despite the concentration. Stunning  

Barrel 5 This is a bit different. Grapes from the Pinhão valley fermented in lagares with stems. This was originally intended for Charme but Dirk left it on the stems a bit too long. It has a stunning nose with wonderfully vivid cherry and herb character. The palate is tough and stalky – very savoury.

Barrel 6 From a 100 year old vineyard high up on the slope, mainly Tinta Roriz and Touriga Francesca. Lovely elegant nose with spicy cherry fruit: quite breathtaking. Elegant high acid palate is very savoury. Brilliant

Barrel 7 From old vines high up in the Douro. Cherry red colour. Lovely cherry/berry nose. Elegant, light high acid palate is very expressive. Impressive 

After this it was lunchtime. Wild boar was on the menu, and some interesting wines accompanied it. My notes were not comprehensive, but I’ve included them for the sake of completeness.

Quinta do Crasto 1999 Tinta Roriz
Rich, dark, tarry and spicy with lots of American oak. Enjoyable and rich.

Redoma 2000
Focused tight berry fruit with distinctive spicy character. Very elegant with lots of rich herby complexity

Batuta 2000
Very rich, ripe nose: full liquoricey and ripe. Massive concentration and very full on, with ripe fruit and spicy tannins. Complex, savoury and intense, this is sensationally good.

Real Companhia Velha Evel Grande Eschola 2000
Very concentrated. Spicy intense wine with a liquoricey edge and quite a bit of structure. Massive concentration. Impressive stuff.