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Change in the Air at Portugal's Niepoort Winery

After shaking up ownership, Douro trailblazer Dirk Niepoort is changing the winemaking team behind his red table wines
Dirk Niepoort is the fifth generation of his family to manage the Port house.
Photo by: Courtesy Niepoort
Dirk Niepoort is the fifth generation of his family to manage the Port house.

Luis Antunes
Posted: August 24, 2018

Following a shift in ownership, the Niepoort winery in Portugal's Douro Valley has announced a new winemaking team. Carlos Raposo will be leaving the company, and Luís Pedro Cândido and Marco Niepoort, 22, son of CEO Dirk Niepoort, will be in charge of the wines, excluding Port. The Port winemaking team, a separate group from dry wine production, will remain the same.

Niepoort was founded in 1842 and has always been a family-managed company. Fifth-generation leader Dirk Niepoort joined the firm in 1987 and vastly increased its influence on the Portuguese wine scene. Under his leadership, Niepoort has acquired vineyards in the Douro, invested heavily in non-fortified wine production, and became a worldwide recognized brand, thanks in part to Dirk’s restless work promoting and selling the wines around the world. The brand produces approximately 150,000 cases a year of Port and tables wines.

But for several years, Dirk struggled with management issues. Earlier this year, he bought the shares belonging to his sister and mother and now owns 95 percent of the company, with the remaining 5 percent owned by general manager José Teles. "Management is now more agile and quick, no more endless meetings," Niepoort told Wine Spectator. "The difference is like water and wine."

The new winemaking team has years of experience at Niepoort, and are quite well-acquainted with its philosophy of winemaking. Dirk will undoubtedly have a lot of input. For more than 20 years he has been a strong advocate of lighter, lower alcohol wines more focused on acidity and drinkability than on concentration and ripeness. To some extent, that was the motivation behind the firm’s recent expansion and strategic investments in the regions of Dão, Bairrada and, more recently, Vinho Verde.

Dirk told Wine Spectator that Raposo will carry on working for Niepoort as a consultant on the Vinho Verde wines.

But Niepoort is primarily a Port wine house. And Dirk says that nothing in the firm’s Port production will change. Most of the wines will continue to be made at their facility of Vale de Mendiz in the Pinhão river valley, by a team led by Nick Delaforce. Master blender Rodrigo Nogueira will continue to oversee blending and aging.

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