Dirk, who is not a trained enologist, has conquered the Portuguese wine industry. Some of the best Douro table wines come from the family company Niepoort, which continues growing.
Dirk Niepoort is 52 years old, and has been the CEO of Niepoort, the five-generations’ family company, since 2005. He is one of the most popular and well regarded Douro wine producers, in spite of not having any enology background. His boldness lead him to become a recognized name in the Portuguese wine industry; his restlessness lead him to diversify his company’s production to the Dão and Bairrada Portuguese regions. He says there is no strategy to the acquisitions: “It is my agitated side, the side that believes that by doing different things, we will improve our core, which is Douro”.
Dirk states that some people accuse him of only having financial aims, although he says “usually things work out and we make a profit, but that is not our main goal“. Niepoort’s invoice stands at around 12 million euros, and the company is still diversifying to the Dão and Bairrada Portuguese regions, still keeping in mind their focus will always be the Douro region. “Porto wine and Douro are the roots of this company, so they will always be the most important region”, the CEO states.
Although Douro is the most important region production-wise, Niepoort wants to conquer the world in regards to markets. For now, the company exports 80% of its production to around 70 countries. Its main markets are Germany, Switzerland, Norway, United States and England — and Portugal, of course.
In 1987, when Dirk began working in the Douro region, winemakers were only focused on Porto wine. But the businessman always believed in Douro’s potential, “for its quality and for the fact that it isn’t an homogeneous region”. And he proudly states: “Douro is probably the most beautiful wine region in the world. I don’t know any other with this size and importance”.
Dirk, who has a Dutch background, sees Portugal as a small country with a fantastic richness: “We have such different regions from each other, we have interesting wines with different characters, we have wine varieties that no longer exist anywhere else in the world, we have old vineyards, we have traditions, habits, an amazing coastline, we have great food. Therefore, we should bet on simple things as the fruit, vegetables, fish and meat we have in the country”.
Dirk believes this “tourism wave” Portugal is experiencing should make Portuguese producers invest in the quality of their wines, because by taking care of tourists, “in five years, this will not be a wave, but rather a reality”. And he adds: “If we gathered tourism, wines, music, we could create the right environment for people to come back and we would also create a lot of reasons to export”.
Dirk has no doubt that Portugal can compete with any country in regards to wine production, as long as it has an identity: “I would like for us to do much better than what we are doing, I would like for the Portuguese to believe in what we have, to be more stubborn and go through with our ideas. I would like for us to take a much larger step in our individuality“.
Dirk has his own perspective on the future of the wine sector in Portugal. He believes “globalization is getting stronger, the big will keep getting bigger and small enterprises will tend to disappear”. He believes Niepoort will “stand in the middle”, because the company “is too small to survive among larger enterprises, and too big to stand among smaller companies”, he firmly states. In spite of his opinion, Niepoort’s CEO states “the idea is not to acquire small producers, but the sector will surely suffer some changes”.