A decanter by Lalique containing Niepoort’s port wine from 1863 has been auctioned by renowned wine auction house Acker, Merrall & Condit in Hong Kong for more than 100,000 euros on 3 November.
It was one of five precious decanters that contained the last few drops of this award-winning score that is not only rare but has scored 100 from US wine critic James Suckling and Jancis Robinson gave it 20 points out of 20.
The wine comes from the 1863 harvest. Franciscus Marius Niepoort filled the great vintage in wooden casks and laid it down to rest it in Niepoort’s maturing cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia, where the wine was used for blending the famous Niepoort tawnies.
More than forty years later, Dirk Niepoort’s grandfather Eduardo Niepoort transferred the wine that remained into glass demijohns, vessels with a capacity of between eight and eleven litres. Nine demijohns were – as it is noted in Niepoort’s cellar book – filled with the rare vintage on 18 September 1905.
The wine still remains there remains even now in those glass bottles from the 20thcentury, still maturing. From time to time it has been tasted and served to selected guests who taste this wine that has been maturing for 155 years.
In 2012, Dirk Niepoort took over the management of the family business, in its fifth generation.
Niepoort created the legendary VV (Vinho Velho) to celebrate the company’s 170th anniversary. 999 bottles of this wine were produced, a blend of very old and valuable lots; a substantial part of it came from the demijohns of vintage 1863.
One last demijohn was left when Dirk Niepoort – on the recommendation of wine critic James Suckling – established contact with the traditional French glass manufacturer Lalique, still practitioners of one of the oldest glassmaking methods, the lost wax process (cire-perdu). This technique, passed down through generations by master craftsmen of the trade, is still used today at the Lalique factory in Alsace to create these carafes that are modelled in shape after the demijohns that lie in Niepoort’s cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Each of the decanters contains 1.5 litres of the precious wine. And each one is dedicated to a particular generation:
• Franciscus Marius van der Niepoort, born 1813
• Jakob Karel van der Niepoort, born 1848
• Eduardo van der Niepoort, born 1880
• Rolf van der Niepoort, born 1927
• Dirk van der Niepoort, born in 1964
A video about the project – ‘Niepoort 1863 in Lalique’ – can be seen on YouTube.
‘Port is a very special liquid’, says Dirk Niepoort. ‘Five generations have collaborated on this wine and the sixth will still have a part of it. I do not know of any other craft where a product is created over so many years and so many generations.’
Incidentally, the high sum of money fetched by the wine breaks all records. Niepoort will be added to the list of Guinness world record holders.
Niepoort is the only Port house whose company name is the same as that of the proprietor. Dirk Niepoort is not only known for his great Ports, but renowned for his still wines as well, which brought a revolution to winemaking in the Douro. A founding member of the famous growers group the Douro Boys, his red table wines and his white still wines figure prominently among the avant-garde in Portugal.