Last week we had a wonderful lunch at Trinity Restaurant in Clapham Old Town, with Dirk Niepoort and his wines. Trinity is a great place, and Adam Byatt had prepared a lovely informal sharing menu based on pyrenees kid goat cooked on charcoal. This is the sort of food I love. There was roast goat leg, goat offal kebabs, a really nice burrata, and some lovely salads. Byatt has just got his Michelin star, and on this showing it is well deserved.
The wines? Some I know quite well, but even then it’s good to come back to try a wine on different occasions. The Bairrada VV, in particular, was singing. ‘Since 2013 we are making wines that are much more elegant and less extracted,’ explained Dirk. And since 2012, Niepoort has also been working in Bairrada and Dão. ‘In those areas I made no compromise,’ says Dirk. ‘I took the old styles. I’m going back to what used to be made.’ He explained that in the 1960s Dão wines weren’t alcoholic, and they weren’t dark in colour. They had good acidity and lots of freshness. ‘Bairrada should be Barraida and Dão should be Dão.’ In the 1960s monster cooperatives started appearing and wine quality went down. Another problem is that Portugal mainly exported to former colonies, and they sent cheap bad wine to these undemanding markets. Dirk is a big fan of both regions. In particular, he says that Bairrada has the best terroirs in Portugal, but it’s also the most difficult to work with. This is only partly because of the humidity that can cause disease problems. ‘Actually, the biggest problem is the people,’ he says.
Some selected tasting notes:
Niepoort Conciso 2012 Dão, Portugal
60% whole bunch, no pumping over, 10 days on skins. Racked to stainless steel and then to a large 2500 litre barrel. Grainy, fine and fresh with linear cherry fruit as well as some lifted raspberry notes. Fresh and fine with real finesse. 95/100
Niepoort Bical Maria Gomes Vinhas Velhas Branco 2013 Bairrada, Portugal
This is made in 1000 litre fuders from the Mosel, and spends 3o months without sulfur. Fine, stony and mineral: you can taste the chalky soil influence here. This is a blend of a few vineyards, and it’s lemony, pure and very fresh. So fine. Practically perfect on today’s showing. 97/100
Turris is a vineyard that Dirk fell in love with as soon as he saw it. He initially rented it to correct Batata. It’s 0.8 hectares and is located in Alves at high altitude. It was one of the first plantings after phylloxera, and it was untrellised until the IVDP ordered all vineyards to be trellised. This wine is made in foudres with 30% whole bunch. ‘The purity is what makes this wine so special,’ says Dirk.
Niepoort Turris 2012 Douro, Portugal
Really fine, fresh and detailed with pure, linear, mineral black cherry fruit. Such finesse here, with amazing purity. 97/100
Niepoort Poerinho Baga 2013 Bairrada, Portugal
Tight, focused and really fresh with red cherries, spice and some citrus. Grippy and focused with raspberries and herbs. Linear and taut. Stony and mineral. Some grip, and high acidity, both of which make this a little challenging. It’s a lovely wine though. 95/100
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