Quinta de Baixo, where Niepoort are making increasingly compelling wines in Bairrada, Portugal

Dirk Niepoort has long been interested in the terroirs of Bairrada. He thinks that the combination of the chalky clay soils and the Baga grape variety makes this potentially the best terroir in Portugal, even though he acknowledges that in many respects the region is a bit messy. ‘It is not the easiest variety in the world, but if you tame the vines and don’t overcrop it, and pick it at the right time, then Baga from Bairrada is probably the best terroir in Portugal.’

Dirk Niepoort in Bairrada

He came to Bairrada for the first time in 1995/96, and made some wines with Casa de Saima and Mario Sergio at Bargeiras.

Then he took the plunge in 2012 and purchased Quinta de Baixo. Taking as his inspiration some of the great wines of the past, he went full in and began working in the style he thinks best suits this grape variety and place. ‘From the beginning we worked without compromise,’ says Dirk, ‘with no extraction and working with whole bunches a lot.’ The reds are made partly in lagar with short fermentations of around 10 days, and part is fermented in closed stainless steel tanks. 40% stems is typical. Buckets are used to wet the cap, and that’s the limit of extraction.

Niepoort’s style is for less extraction, earlier picking and good acidity, and this is making compelling wines of terroir that should age brilliantly. ‘The secret  and greatness of Bairrada is not power, but elegance, lightness, acidity and chalkiness,’ says Dirk.

Winemaker Miguel Silva

There are 20 hectares of vines at Baixo, and he also buys grapes in from growers (estate fruit is enough for about 30% of his needs). We looked around a few vineyards, including a venerable centenarian vineyard that looks very ragged but produces amazing grapes. This is a 1.8 hectare block called Lote D. About 10% of the vines are white, and they go into the blend. The wine from this vineyard is his favourite, and it’s profound.

Baga from younger vines (20 years old)

As well as Baga, Dirk makes incredible white Bairrada, and a lovely sparkling wine called Agua Viva.

Fuders in the cellar

The Vinhas Velhas white is fermented in fuders (old 1000 litre barrels imported from Germany) with very little sulfur dioxide for almost two years. It is bottled with no fining or filtration. 

Dirk is trying to get rid of small oak and do everything in large barrels. He has an interesting collection of larger vessels, some from Germany and others from Austria. ‘In Bairrada it is important not to play too much with wood,’ he says. ‘It is not good at all for Baga.’

Lote D vineyard
Mixed white and Baga vines in Lote D

‘I have jumped into this project in an exaggerated way with no compromise,’ said Dirk to me in a visit in 2017. ‘I thought it would take 5-10 years to get the wine the way I wanted, but I have been happy with everything from the beginning.’

Things have progressed really well here. My latest visit was in May 2023, when I tasted with Baixo winemaker Miguel Silva and even tried the debut Lote D in the vineyard itself.


Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Bical Maria Gomes VV 2019 Bairrada, Portugal
11.5% alcohol. Very linear and bright with stony mineral characters. Shows great tension and focus. Lemony and intense with lovely complexity. 94/100

Gonçalves Faria Branco 2017 Bairrada, Portugal
Linear and taut with nice acidity. Bright, lemony and pure with great precision. Chalky and mineral with a pristine quality and potential for further development. 95/100

Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Pinot Noir 2021 Bairrada, Portugal
First vintage, 2 weeks in lagar, whole bunch, then goes to small French oak. Supple and really nicely weighted with sweet cherries and plums and a chalky, mineral edge. Fresh and expressive with lovely precision and some savoury hints. Nice brightness here. 94/100

Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Poerinho 2019 Bairrada, Portugal
One month in stainless steel, 15% whole bunch, then large oak for two years. Elegant and really fresh with a mineral core showing sweet cherry and plum fruit. Very expressive with some complex spicy notes and a twist of iron and iodine. Very fine. 94/100

Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Poerinho Garrafeira 2012 Bairrada, Portugal
Very fine and fresh showing good structure, with elegance and weight. So fine and expressive with red cherries, dried hebs and some spice. Such a beautiful wine with structure, fruit, finesse and complexity. 97/100

Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Poerinho Garrafeira 2015 Bairrada, Portugal
Rich with some warmth on the nose showing cherries and plums. Nice freshness here with some mineral notes. Has some richness but also elegance, and good tannins as well as acidity and bright red fruits. This is pretty serious and needs some more time in bottle. 95/100

Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Lote D 2014 Bairrada, Portugal
Debut vintage, tasted in the vines. Juicy, supple and fresh with nice mineral notes under the cherry and plum fruit, with some herbs in the mix too. Fine and juicy with redcurrants on the finish. 95/100

Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Lote D 2017 Bairrada, Portugal
Complex, layered and fine with juicy cherries and plums and real finesse. Great acidity with good structure. Harmony and elegance are the key here with the firm tannins nicely cloaked. Great acidity. Amazing wine. 97/100

Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Lote D 2018 Bairrada, Portugal
Lively, bright, vivid and spicy. Some orange peel, with red cherries and plums. Has a little prickle on the finish, with some green hints as well as elegant red fruits. 95/100

Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Lote D 2019 Bairrada, Portugal
Supple and fine with precision and elegance. There’s some silkiness to the fruit but also good acidity and cloaked structure. Very fine and supple showing great freshness and real potential. A super-elegant expression of Baga. 97/100

Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Lote D 2020 Bairrada, Portugal
Has some lovely reduction here. Fine, fresh, red cherries and berries with nice brightness. Has lovely acidity and nice weight. Such precision and purity with real elegance. Very fine. 97/100

Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Lote D 2022 Bairrada, Portugal (cask sample)
Very fine and bright with elegant, juicy cherry and plum fruit, as well as notes of raspberries and olives. Shows some spice, too: elegant but structured. 96-98/100

Older notes

Lagar de Baixo 2017 (sample)
Very low extraction style, with 12% alcohol. Floral and spicy with lovely elegance and purity. Elegant Baga. 92-94/100

Poerinho 2017 (sample)
From centenarian vines, this is concentrated and focused with lovely intensity. Fresh with good structure and perfume, showing real finesse to the berry fruits. 95-96/100

Poerinho Garrafeira 2015 (sample)
This will be bottled in spring 2019. Very fine and harmonious with good structure and amazing finesse to the tannins. Has a very fine-grained quality. Pure and elegant. 96-97/100

Goncalves Feria 2017 (sample)
More clay and limestone in this plot, with 40 year old vines, 10% of which are white, mixed in. Concentrated and dense with bold tannins and a touch of good rusticity. Some power but also freshness. Nice black fruit character. 93-95/100

Lot D 2017 (sample)
Centenarian vines. Concentrated, structured and intense with lovely purity and density. Has power and also finesse with good structure. 96-97/100

VV Branco 2017 (sample)
From clay soils, this is in tonel. Piercing, lively and pure with fennel, spice and herbs. So pure and intense. 93-95/100

Same wine in foudre: Fine-grained and expressive with a mineral edge and amazing lemony purity. Shows more character than the tonel. 94-96/100

Pinot Noir 2018 (sample)
From young vines, this is first crop. 1000 litres made. Very sappy, fresh and linear with nice red fruits. An elegant style with strawberries and cherries.

Bottled wines

Lote D 2014
Structured and finely spiced with cherries, raspberries and some grippy tannins. This has lots of structure and it’s quite grainy and stony. Subtle medicinal notes. 92/100

Lote D 2015
Very fresh, spicy and intense with good acidity. Focused red cherries and raspberries with some grippy tannins and nice intense red fruit character driving things. Has a bit of CO2. Reductive and taut, this needs time. 94/100

Lote D 2016
This has some flesh and is sappy and elegant, with lovely black cherry and red cherry fruit. Supple and refined, with such poise. Hints of pepper. 95/100

Drink Me Nat Cool Baga 2017 Bairrada
So fresh, supple and sweetly fruited with grainy, stony detail. Pretty, elegant and harmonious with nice purity. Drinkable. 90/100

Goncalves Feira Branco 2013 VR Beira Atlantico
10.4% alcohol. This is mineral and taut with lemons and fine herbs. Pretty but with high acidity, and real precision and purity. Pithy, bright and fine with lovely acidity. 95/100

Baloiro Lot B 2013 Beira Atlantico
10% alcohol. Pure limestone soils. Very fine with lemons, nuts and a hint of honey. Saline and pure with lovely acid structure. Real finesse here. Shows remarkable finesse and purity. Lemony and profound. 96/100

Even older notes:

Goncalves Feria Branco 2013 Bairrada
10.5% alcohol. Fresh, linear, very pure and light with lemon, spice, pear and a hint of green apple. Stony in the mouth with some mineral intensity and nice acidity. 93/100

Goncalves Feria Branco 2015 Bairrada
Lovely lemony purity to this wine with a bit of appley richness. Good core of acidity with some citrus pith, too. Great intensity and purity here with a lovely depth as well as keen acidity and lemony drive. 92/100

Vinhas Velhas Bical Maria Gomes 2014
Very pure and fine with nice citrus and pear fruit with a bit of apple character. Lovely purity and elegance. Such lovely acidity. Has weight and purity. 94/100

Vinhas Velhas Bical Maria Gomes 2015
11% alcohol. Pure and pristine with nice intensity of citrus and pear fruit, together with keen acidity that integrates beautifully into the fruit. Juicy and linear with hints of tangerine, lemons and fine herbs. Nice fruit expression, too. Needs a bit of time to show its best, but already compelling. 94/100

‘B’ Vinhas Velhas 2013
This is an as yet unnamed, unreleased wine from a single vineyard that spends three years in large oak. Very fine and mineral. Intense and concentrated, and a bit saline. So mineral, pure and textured, this is remarkable stuff with immense potential. 96/100

Lagar de Baixo 2014
Beautiful aromatics here: floral cherries and raspberries. Supple and sweetly fruited, this is smashable but also refined and quite serious. Delicious and fine, and drinking perfectly now, although it will age. 94/100

Lagar de Baixo 2015
Old and young vineyards, fermented in lagares and then aged in large oak. Such aromatic purity! Red cherries, plums, fine spices, subtle sappy notes. The palate is light, expressive, pretty and digestible with lovely red fruits, fine spiciness and good acidity. Very light on its feet and elegant. Quite beautiful. 93/100

Goncalves Feria Tinto 2015
More clay soils here, inland. Very elegant, fresh and supple with pure red cherry fruit. Has a bit of crunch, with some tannin, but it’s very well integrated. Supple, fine and juicy with nice complexity. This is quite special. 94/100

D 2015
A special project. This is unusual. There’s some reductive character still, with bright, grippy, fresh red cherry and cranberry fruit. Funky but serious with some firm structure and savoury detail under the bright fruit. Hard to assess right now. 93/100

Poerinho 2015
12% alcohol. So fine, fresh, concentrated and expressive with elegant red cherry fruits and nice grippy structure. Good acidity too. This shows lovely finesse with everything pulling together. So expressive and pure with lovely juiciness. 95/100

Nat Cool Baga Velha 2016
No sulfites. Very fresh, juicy and supple with tight, lively red cherries and raspberries. Juicy and fresh with good acidity and some grip. A very light, drinkable style with some edges. Smashable. 90/100

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