It will come as no surprise to anyone that I’m a big fan of Dirk Niepoort’s still wines. After all, I’ve been buying them for the best part of 15 years, when Premium Portuguese wines in the UK market consisted of only Barca Velha from the Douro and Pera Manca from the Alentejo.
I first encountered Dirk’s Projectos wines with his unfortified Navazos flor white from Jerez several years ago with several other oddments along the way, more latterly the experimental Projectos Baga wines, the precursor preparatory wines to his Quinta do Baixos venture in Bairrada.
Today, I got to taste a true Unicorn wine. The Niepoort Projectos Chardonnay 2003. The Denomination states Vinho Regional Tras Os Montes, but if I’m not mistaken, I remember Dirk telling me the grapes were from high altitude Chardonnay vines from the Douro, but this could not be named on the label as such due to appellation laws. Whatever the case, this was possibly one of the last bottles in the UK to be consumed and it did not disappoint. But then again, when has a Niepoort wine ever failed to impress!?
The Projectos are small experiments where Dirk Niepoort tries out different paths to create unique wines to share with lovers of his wines. The greatest Chardonnays come from Burgundy (Chablis and Cotê dór), and the grapes for the Projectos Chardonnay were picked from twenty year old vineyards planted at 750 meters of altitude, with the wine being fermented and aged for 8-9 months in old oak casks. Even though 2003 was a very hot vintage, Dirk’s objective was to make a Chardonnay as fine, light and elegant as possible with high acidity “important for the drinkability factor” and also ensuring the wine’s ageworthiness.
Tasting Note: Rich, expressive wine laden with green apple, brioche, sour dough, salinity, a youthful chalky minerality, and a tightly laced, linear pear and lemon butter seam. Plenty of dusty dried herbs and green tea notes on a tight, fresh steely palate showing pithy, taught mid-palate tension and real pin point detail on the long, fresh, focused finish. A supremely delicious wine that feels no older than 3 to 4 years. Dead ringer for a 1er Cru or even Grand Cru Raveneau Chablis. The talents of Dirk Niepoort cease to amaze. (Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)