Easily one of the world’s top winemakers, Dirk Niepoort’s insight extends beyond soils, grapes and blends, but into humans, predicting and driving the wines that a generation of keen folks are interested in drinking.
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. Independent, low-interventionist winemaking (biodynamic practices since 2012), earlier picking times, and clever marketing has created fresh wines both inside and outside of the bottle. There is little Dirk’s ceaseless mind hasn’t touched, including natural, sparkling, and highly experimental wine
Niepoort’s NAT’Cool! range of wines were created to be made as naturally as possible, be low alcohol, be terroir-driven, use native grapes to the region, be affordable, and be so smashable that it’s only sold in 1L bottles. The range of wines is made in collaboration with winemakers around Portugal and the world, in addition to sole Niepoort bottlings.
There are a few rules that need be noted:
RULE NUMBER ONE…THERE ARE NO RULES!
ALWAYS RESPECT THE FIRST RULE
LESS IS MORE
COOLER = LESS EXTRACTION, LESS MESS
AUTHENTIC, COOL ATTITUDE
ONE LITER BOTTLE
THE INCREDIBLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING
The striking labels are a creative canvas in themselves, inspiring an annual worldwide contest inviting drinkers to add their own touch to the labels.
I recently tasted through the current NAT’Cool range.
Niepoort Nat’Cool Branco 2021, Vinho Verde, Portugal
This cloudy pét-nat ish Vinho Verde, comes from the sub-region of Lousada, and is a mix of Azal, Arinto, Avesso, Trajadura and Loureiro. It was bottled with a few grams RS, so it could continue to percolate in the bottle, affording it a gentle spritz. Hazy yellow apple, pear skin, apricot skin rules the slim, fuzzy palate, with a gentle rise of acidity to a subtly spiced finish. Crack into this now, with a brisk chill, and mates to share. 88/100
Niepoort NAT’Cool Rosé Douro 2020, DOC Douro, Portugal
Showcasing their new embossed Nat’COOL 1L bottles, this brand new rosé is a mixed field blend from the Douro, and only 4000 bottles were made. Pouring a blush peach hue, this medium bodied rosé opens with red florals, geranium, crunchy mirabelle plum, and meadow grasses on a silken, stony palate, finishing with a dusting of spice and a puff of warmth. This glides easily long the palate, fitting easily into the smashable Nat COOL framework. Drink now. 90/100
Niepoort NAT’Cool! Tinto 2020, DOC Bairrada, Portugal
This lighter, shining red is 40-100 year old baga vines from the limestone laced, clay soils of Bairrada. This was native fermented and aged in stainless, to preserve the purity of fruit. Light and lifted, this finessed red soars with wild strawberry, wild raspberry, perfumed plum, thorny rockrose, hugged with fine, sticky tannins, and seasoned with a dusting of pink pepper. So smashable, take this with a light chill, liberally. 91/100
Niepoort NAT’Cool! Tinto Navarra 2020, DO Navarra, Spain
In 2020, the Nat Cool family grew with this foray into Naravva, the result of one of son Daniel Niepoort’s numerous trips to Spain where he came across incredible old garnacha bush vines rooted in calcareous schist soils at Viña Zorzal. This was native fermented in stainless and cement. This is a light and lifted garnacha, with candle wax, wild strawberry, crushed roses, rhubarb, hugged by finely gritty tannins and dusted with white pepper. There is a lovely lifted floral perfume here, showing garnacha’s lighter side. A welcome addition to the family. 90/100
Niepoort NAT’Cool! Tinto Dão 2020, IG Terras do Dāo, Portugal
In 2020, the Nat Cool family grew, with this foray into the Dão region, and grapes from the granite slopes of the Serra da Estrela Mountain Range. This is a blend of 40-80 year old vines of Jaen, Tinta Pinheira, Alfrocheiro, Baga, and Touriga Nacional. This was native fermented and aged 6 months in stainless. Pouring a pale hue, this slight red is lifted with wild flowers, wild herbs, perfumed wild cherry and plum, all laced with grippy, granitic texture, and framed with long, light tannins. The finish lingers with light white pepper and crushed stones. Certainly smashable. 91/100
Niepoort NAT’Cool! Primata 2020, DOC Douro, Portugal
One of the newest NAT’Cool! in the range, Primata is the result of Dirk Niepoort giving his cellar master Luís Pedro a push to make his own wine in 2016. Half the blend is Touriga Nacional grapes, with the rest a mix of old vine Tinta Amarela, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, all from vineyards at 600m in the Douro Valley’s Tabuaço region. Whole bunch and foot-trodden, this was macerated and native fermented in lagares before being pressed into stainless, for a 6 month rest. This opens with a puff of reduction, before a smooth palate of candle wax, ripe strawberries, rhubarb, brightened with a cranberry acidity. Tannins are sticky, taking this to a lightly spiced finish. Chill down and enjoy this lighter red now. 88/100
Niepoort NAT’Cool! Voyeur Tinto Amphora 2019, Douro Valley, Portugal
Six amphora reds and whites, from vines 40-50 years old, and from six different sites in the Douro go into this unique Voyeur wine. Voyeur is taken from different sites, altitudes, etc. each year. Each site spent 6 months in 1000L Spanish amphora, lined with beeswax, prior to blending in stainless, returning to amphorae for a couple of months, and then bottling. Pouring a lighter plum hue, this lighter red is crunchy and fresh with plum, wild blackberry, wild blueberry, and rockrose, threaded with lines of wax and pink peppercorns. Tannins are long and slight, and acidity is effortless and lifted, drawing this to a lingering, schistous finish. Enjoy this smashable wine now (conveniently in a #NatCool 1L format) with a light chill. 92/100
Niepoort NAT’Cool! Trudy The True Ruby Port, Douro Valley, Portugal
Trudy, The True Ruby, is a blend of vintages, with wines averaging 3 years old, sourced primarily from vineyards 30-80 years in Vale de Mendiz in the heart of the Cima Corgo. Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Amarela, Sousão, Tinta Roriz and others were foot trodden and fermented in lagares, followed by ageing in large old wooden vats. Candied blackberries, baked cherry, brown sugar, fruitcake streams across a downy palate, with grippy schistous sides adding texture though to the warming finish. This is aimed a youthful audience, and best enjoyed with a chill (maybe even over ice). 88/100
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