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Dirk van der Niepoort to create ‘new category for wine’

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Portuguese wine producer Dirk van der Niepoort is preparing to launch a brand new label for natural/low SO2 and low alcohol wines from around the world with the aim of creating ‘a new category for wine’.

Called Nat’Cool, the new brand will include wines made by Niepoort himself as well as winemaking friends from Portugal and other winemaking regions around the world.

Winemakers signed up to produce a Nat’Cool wine so far include Vitor Claro, based in Alentejo, Raúl Pérez from Bierzo, Alain Graillot from Crozes-Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie’s Stéphane Ogier, who will produce his first Nat’Cool wine from the 2017 vintage.

Unusually, Niepoort intends for the Nat’Cool range of wines to be sold in one-litre bottle format. To qualify for the Nat’Cool stamp of approval, the wines should be affordable, low-alcohol, terroir-focused and ‘natural’ or low-intervention, Niepoort explained

The first wine in the Nat’Cool range will be a 2015 Vinho Verde from Dirk Niepoort called ‘White Mug’. This will be a Vinho Verde with no SO2 added, in which fermentation has been completed in bottle. Bottled unfiltered, the wine will be low-alcohol, cloudy and lightly sparkling, and will be ‘fun to drink’, Niepoort said. Bottled last year, White Mug will be released in late September 2017.

The second release will be a 100% Baga from Bairrada which Niepoort describes as the flagship wine of the Nat’Cool brand. The unoaked red from the chalky soils of Niepoort’s Quinta de Baixo vineyards will be called ‘Nat’Cool’, reflecting its status as the flagship of the brand, and is described as ‘a light, sexy, fresh and vibrant example’ of Bairrada terroir.

‘It should be easy, it should be not woody, it should have good acidity, not too much alcohol, and it should be something that you want to drink’ Niepoort

Further Nat’Cool releases will come from several of Niepoort’s winemaking friends in Portugal. Luis Pedro Candido from Quinto do Carolina in the Douro has made 1,000 one-litre bottles of 9% alcohol ‘Beaujolais-style’ Touriga Nacional called Primata, which will carry a Nat’Cool stamp. Primata was bottled one month ago and will also be released this year.

In addition, Quinta Dos Capuchos in Lisbon is set to release a Nat’Cool Castelão from the 2016 vintage, while chef-turned winemaker Vitor Claro is aiming to release a red Nat’Cool Vinho Verde from the 2017 vintage. Meanwhile another winemaking friend of Niepoort, Luis Faisca in Dão, is making a no-added-SO2 white wine called Moreish.

Further afield

Outside Portugal, Niepoort’s connection in Germany is also set to yield up Nat’Cool bottlings. Two Nat’Cool wines are expected from FIO, Niepoort’s collaborative project with Philipp Kettern in the Mosel.

‘I have a few friends who are going to play this game,’ Niepoort told Imbibe.

‘So everybody does their own label, but there is [also]a stamp with Nat’Cool. Basically the theory behind it is making something that is natural – whatever that means, so this is not fundamentalist – but it’s basically should be something typical of the area, it should be easy, it should be not woody, it should have good acidity, not too much alcohol, and it should be something that you want to drink. And ideally sold in a litre bottle.’

Niepoort added that he would like Nat’Cool to represent a ‘new category in wine’ which might also be extended to other consumable products such as food and tea. The winemaker already makes tea alongside Nina Gruntowski through the Chá Camélia brand.

New category 

‘I would like to create a new category – for the moment wine, but also maybe tea and food. I would like you as a customer, if you see in the shop something which is called Nat’Cool, to know exactly what you are going to get. You will know the area of the wine, you will know what kind of wine it will be. The idea is not to make the best wine in the world, it is to make the most drinkable wine in the world, and a wine that is fun to drink.

‘There aren’t many rules except that I should taste the wine and like it,’ he added. ‘And it should be something that is fun to drink and it shouldn’t be too expensive – between £10 and £20 but on the lower side.’

The Nat’Cool project follows a similar collaborative project which led to the production of a series of wines released under the ‘Niepoort Projectos’ label. These were small-production wines, often made from regionally atypical grape varieties in the Douro, Dão, Carnuntum in Austria, Ribeira Sacra in Spain and South Africa. This project involved winemakers such as Telmo Rodríguez, Raúl Pérez, Eben Sadie, Stéphane Ogier, Eduardo Ojeda, Christophe Wachter-Wiesler and Luis Cerdeira.

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