A thrilling debut: Niepoort Turris is to Douro wine what Bioma is to Vintage Port

niepoort turris vineyard
This last week I’ve been focused on updating the Portugal entries for the forthcoming (4th) edition of The Oxford Companion of Wine.  It has presented a good opportunity to reflect on developments and trends, one of which – an exciting focus on terroir-driven single site wines – was epitomised by a Douro red I tasted last month.

It is Dirk Niepoort’s new baby (well one of the many!) – Niepoort Turris, which is to Douro DOC wine what Niepoort Bioma is to Vintage Port.  Both are very singular, exceptionally terroir translucent wines.

As you can see from the photo of the vineyard from which Turris hails in Covas do Douro, the Cima Corgo, it’s an exceptional site.  Steep, at 450m quite high for red wine grapes (but south-facing) and one of the oldest Niepoort knows at over 130 years old (which explains the unusual freestanding bush vines).

In the past, Niepoort’s assistant winemaker Carlos Raposa told me “it has been the pepper and salt in all the wines,” but in 2012 it was allowed to speak for itself.  A task facilitated by ageing all 2000 litres of this single vineyard wine in two aged (+60 years old) 1,000-litre casks which Niepoort acquired from the Mosel, Germany.

The grapes were harvested on 11 September and fermented in stainless steel tanks with 25% stems. Although the wine spent a total of five weeks on skins, extraction was light.  The wine was bottled early (after 12 months ageing), without fining or filtering to maintain freshness and character.

Here’s my note.

Niepoort Turris 2012 (Douro)

niepoort turris

I’m told each bottle is unique, since the label was individually designed by the artist João Noutel, but I don’t think they meant this bottle!

A deep colour and, initially, quite reminiscent of Niepoort Batuta with its blackcurrant fruits and very pronounced minerality.  But there’s a wilder fruit quality too, which puts me in mind of sloes (which, admittedly, I’ve only tasted in gin) and, following through on the spirit comparison, slivovitz (plum brandy).  If you will, a really intense, compressed quality, which is not overtly (or at least not sweetly) fruity.  Even on the nose, it smacks of dryness.  And in the mouth, the reticence around the fruit follows through.  I’m much more aware of that pronounced minerality – a stone-washed minerality – and a woody (not oaky) character, as if the vine trunks themselves have given more than the fruit (which is quite probably true where Raposa jokes that each bush vine “was like a big tree with two bunches”). And the experience takes me back to a terrific comment at an old vine seminar/tasting I attended at Cape Wine (reported here) about old vines being full of memory.  It’s during the afternoon and, especially, the following day that Turris (relatively speaking) opens up, building in intensity to reveal a surprisingly pure, well-defined (if ascetic) seam of red cherry and more tactile (skinsy) pomegranate and cranberry.  And with its pithy fruit tannins, even some grapefruit peel.  Hints of lifted bergamot and fine, floral white pepper emerge with time in glass. I even pick up Barolo Chinato medicinal spice and dried herb nuances.  Though very intense of expression, fresh and persistent it remains tight-knit – lips compressed.  Unique, with more stories to tell this is a thoroughly enthralling wine, which will keep drawing you back to the glass. 13.3%

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