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Posted by David Eley on 29-08-2008
The Cote d'Azur, best known for Brigitte Bardot, minor monarchs with small principalities and an excessive use of Ambre Solaire - is not a natural home for one of Europe's most celebrated cerebral winemakers. Dirk van der Niepoort is a man whose personal interpretation of dressing for dinner extends to wiping the daytime dust from his beloved pair of Crocs . He is the winemaker's winemaker, a man who eats, breathes and sleeps fine wine while eschewing visible excess, except, that is, when it comes to his own state of the art schist-clad winery in the heart of northern Portugal's Douro valley. Niepoort is a professional wine Guru whose family firm, Niepoort Vinhos, commands great respect in the world of Port and table wine. His opinions on making and marketing fine wine really count - he is one of those inspirational people who create the vinous zeitgeist by exploring every nook and cranny of innovation and invention.
Nose to Nose in Nice
Dirk values quality and elegance: usually in the form of bottled liquid expression, emblazoned with the iconic labels of his winemaking heroes from Burgundy or other classic regions. The French Riviera and its environs would seem an unlikely location for him to conduct serious wine research... unless, you are teaming up with a famous ‘Nose' from the perfume business whose ‘industrial' heart is in the small southern French town of Grasse.
Mona Diorio is an esteemed French ‘Nose' and perfume creatrice who just happens to love fine wine. At age 17 Mona became the young protégée of one of the 20th century's truly great perfume Noses - Edmond Roudnitska. He was the genius responsible for creating a whole generation of legendary 20th century fragrances encompassing, Eau Sauvage, Dior Dior, Diorella and Eau d'Hermès. When Edmond passed away in 1996 Mona continued his work and she now runs her own successful perfume company ‘Mona Diorio Parfums '. Mona and Dirk met in the city of Nice, the simple idea was to compare a Nose from the world of perfume with a Nose from the world of fine wine, discovering if there are any similarities. The setting was a small restaurant in the capital of the Cote d'Azur, Dirk takes up the story, "I met Mona through wine writer Andrew Catchpole, she likes wine a lot and in her past had worked as a wine waiter ... the idea was to make a tasting of two Port wines showing how the blend is made, I chose the wines to taste. This selection comprised the component parts of a ten-year vintage Port followed by the final blend. Thereafter, we tasted the backbone of Niepoort's 2007 vintage with 5, 10, 15 and 20% of another Port to discover how the two wines behaved in relation to one another"
Dirk Niepoort seems very happy with his first sniff around the world of scents and perfumes; "in my opinion, there were some very interesting conclusions - Mona's background, having work closely with Edmond Roudnetska, echoed my own working experiences with master blender Sr. José Nogueira at Niepoort Vinhos in Gaia. Sr. José is the third of four generations from the same family to blend for Niepoort - father to son. Within these two respective disciplines I believe the mental approach is very similar ... i.e. in our world two plus two does not necessarily equal four."
Who knows where this ‘Nice' nose encounter might lead? Dirk Niepoort certainly views his experiment as the first of many and looks forward to more comparisons in the future. Given his creative originality, who would bet against a possible Eau de Niepoort... and just imagine the scope for all those floral notes on the back label... any humorous suggestions?