July 04: As part of her wine studies she was on Port Wine Trails in the glorifying Douro Wine Region of Portugal last year, where the panoramic view of Pinhao (Pinhão) river streaming through the Douro Valley, with the terraced vineyards was majestic indeed, writes Sheetal Kadam as she reminisces her time with the Niepoort team at their winery that inspired her to share the ideas recently exchanged over a virtual wine tasting with the owner of the family winery, Dirk Niepoort and his concept of Natcool wines
Dirk Niepoort is known for making outstanding Niepoort port wines as also for his remarkable work in uplifting Portugal wines at the international level to quite an extent. Having said that Dirk, assertively likes to be called a ‘Jerk’ for the weirdness in his work, may it be raising tea plantations in Portugal or the upcoming Natcool Wine Revolution.
Natcool Wine Revolution
According to Dirk, Natcool is a concept of revolution, definitely not restricted to Niepoort or Wines from Portugal. Producers from renowned wine regions are showing a lot of interest in joining this movement. At present Natcool is gaining popularity in countries such as Italy, Chile, Austria, Germany, Argentina and Portugal. ‘The whole movement is gaining momentum; it’s getting a lot of attention, now and then we are receiving calls and emails, so eventually, we believe this will become a world movement,’ he says, adding "People are fundamentalists; I don't agree with their description and explanation of natural wines; I don't understand what orange wine or modern wines mean to people. I like some funkiness in the wine, some reduction in the wine; basically, the wine has to be well made" says Dirk Niepoort.
Let’s imagine a situation where you go to a restaurant in Holland where along with the food menu you get a big list of wines, not knowing which wine to order. Suddenly, you find a Slovenian wine mentioned in the wine list- will it excite you to taste that wine? Maybe not, or you don’t know, but if this wine is entitled as a Natcool wine, won't it interest you? Or at least push you further to understand the meaning of being a Natcool wine? Every wine region is unique, it produces distinct wines, you need to be a wine expert to understand these wines, but if you can also go by the Natcool label it would help make better choices.
To describe Natcool wine, it must be logically yo-yo, natural, environment-friendly, possibly the wine made with local grape varieties, wine style- without wood, not much of expression, easy-drinking wine. The idea behind Natcool is not to make a particular wine style, but to enhance the expressivity of the local grape variety with the terroir in which it thrives. It has to be unique in its approach. Above all, it has to be a well-made wine.
Some directive principles mentioned on the label are - 1st- there is no rule, 2nd- always respect the first rule, 3rd- always more is less, 4th- it is a yo-yo wine with less colour intensity, medium alcohol and less messy, 5th – it is authentic, pure, fresh, evident attitude, 6th – ideally comes in 1 ltr bottle, 7th- price is reasonable, 8th – it is incredibly light but high on quality.
Dirk's psychology says "we live in the world where people get attracted to stronger muscles more than smarter brains- not necessarily that the wine should always be fruity, woody, aromatic, high on alcohol etc. We can have wine as aperitif too."
This movement encourages the wine producers to be accountable to the planet we live in, to be considerate about the environment around us. The campaign doesn't mean being fundamentalists, making people follow a set of strict rules; it is about being self-conscious. We shouldn't be living in a world where police should control us. Having the right attitude is essential, in principle Natcool wines should come from chemical-free vineyards and morally the producer should follow natural ways of making wines, resulting in the wine to be authentic and exciting; that's it to get recognised as a Natcool Wine.
Natcool welcomes people to make wines that they like to make an open door for people to experiment on making wine, e.g. one of the producers in Alentejo tried white wines in Amphora now desires to get entitled to Natcool label. First Natcool label came from the Douro wine region; the winemaker made Primato wine. Dirk started experimenting on Natcool Vinho Verde in 2015. It is a traditionally-made sparkling wine from the local varieties such as Alvarinho, Avesso, Trajadura, Arinto, Loureiro and Azal. Primary fermentation is done in a stainless steel tank, re-fermented in the bottle. This wine is low on alcohol, never undergoes oak ageing. At the same time already produced but yet to be bottled Natcool Ruby port by Niepoort is going to be a pleasant surprise.
I find it a liberal way, in no small extent, freehand is given to the producer to follow his passion and creativity for making a style of wine he desires, to earn a title for his wines. On average the price ranges between €8 -15 depending on the countries. “We help people sell their wines, but we don’t sell their wines. We may have a website, though, that explains the meaning of Natcool wines,” mentions Dirk clearly.
Art Contest for label designs
Recently we’ve been seeing a lot of Natcool art promos on social media, got to know more about it from Dirk, Natcool art blind contest of label designing which ran for almost a month. A half label on the bottle was deliberately kept empty. It became a fatal attraction; people felt like touching the bottle. The wine that looks at you and says ‘Drink Me’ is the Natcool wine. It was spectacular for them to see incredible minds working on, to fantasize their ideas. Almost 200 people sent the artwork, and it was a rigorous work for the judges to select the best five. The winners will soon get a pat on their back for their creative efforts.
Bairrada Natcool Wine tasting
It was fun getting to know the Bairrada Natcool wine, Virtually. Dirk uncorked Bairrada Baga 2014 from the old vineyards. He explains the making of the Bairrada Natcool wine, the whole bunch of Baga undergoes short fermentation. Intentionally, here pumps are avoided for gaining light extractions. The wine displays beautiful colour (Burgundian style), it is unique in its expressions, very aromatic, not very fruity, with a fair amount of acidity, refreshing wine, with a decent finish. Many more reasons, for Bairrada to be the best wine region in Portugal. Just 16 kms. away from the Atlantic Ocean the area experiences quite a bit of rain, high humidity, less heat than Douro, overlapped by chalky and salty soils resulting in meticulously fussy wines.
Natcool Wine concept for India
Natural winemaking is seen reasonably possible in the developed countries; philosophically the grapes are grown naturally, in congruence with the surrounding environment, so the wines are chemical-free. Contrary to the fact, we use fertilisers in India to get higher yields. Modern agriculture practices followed in India can primarily be a hurdle, in following natural viticulture practices and natural winemaking techniques. Though a couple of winemakers are experimenting on producing organic wines, natural wines still have a long way to go. I think the philosophy of making Natcool wines is an easier way to enter the world of natural wine for the aspiring Indian wine producers. Also for Indian wines getting entitled as Natcool wine, can be a flagship achievement, in the ‘World of Natural Wines.’
I am sure now you won't be skeptical about the newly introduced wine. If you go to Natcool it will give you a direction, and a clear indication of wine behind its label. Natcool title will self-advocate the wine in the bottle, irrespective of the region, grape variety, wine style- no matter if it is a large-sized winery or a boutique winery, as long as the wine beholds the authenticity. Natcool is not for all wines but some specialized wines produced by like- minded people.
Mumbai-based Sheetal Kadam is a graduate in Agriculture with an MBA in International Business. She is also a 'Certified Cultore' by Alfiere Italico- Wine, a certified wine course designed and organized internationally by Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IICCI) outside Italy, in Mumbai. She is currently pursuing Diploma in WSET (Level 4). She has worked with Indian wine producers in marketing in Pune for a year. Sheetal may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org