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Decanter Hall of Fame and Rising Star 2023 winners revealed

This year’s Decanter Hall of Fame award winner is Dirk van der Niepoort, a self-taught winemaker who has helped to transform Portugal’s wine scene, with the 2023 Rising Star prize going to California-based geologist Brenna Quigley, a passionate advocate for the concept of terroir.

Dirk van der Niepoort has become the 40th recipient of the Decanter Hall of Fame award, which honours those who have made significant contributions to the modern wine world.

‘It is no exaggeration to say that Niepoort has turbocharged Portuguese wines’ reputation and profile,’ wrote Portugal expert Sarah Ahmed in Decanter magazine’s October 2023 issue, in a special feature on Niepoort as this year’s Hall of Fame prize winner.

Sometimes described as a maverick, Niepoort manages to blend a love of tradition with a desire to flout convention and question authority, said Ahmed, who is the regional chair for Portugal at the Decanter World Wine Awards.

After joining the family’s 19th-century Port business in 1987, Niepoort pioneered premium-quality, Portuguese still wines, ‘blazing a trail for Douro DOC wine’, said Ahmed. He has since developed projects in other regions and countries, sometimes linking up with other top winemakers.

Paul Symington, of Port house owner and wine producer Symington Family Estates, described Niepoort as ‘a transformative figure in the Portuguese wine scene’.

Symington also praised Niepoort for breaking down barriers between producers, including Port houses. ‘Dirk – especially with the growth of Douro DOC wines – encouraged an atmosphere of collaboration and openness. Pioneering and very refreshing, it changed a lot of the dynamic.’

Niepoort became MD of his family company in 1997 after taking over from his father, Rolf. He is known for being generous with his time, sharing his knowledge – and bottles from the cellar – with everyone from fellow winemakers to interns.

Whilst Niepoort’s entry-level Douro DOC, Fabelhaft, constitutes a significant proportion of the company’s production, the producer’s influence stretches well beyond the Douro today.

Niepoort acquired Quinta de Baixo in Bairrada in 2012, and Quinta da Lomba in the Dão in 2014, and also makes wines in Vinho Verde, Alentejo, Madeira, the Azores, Germany and Spain. Niepoort’s ‘Nat Cool’ project, meanwhile, has focused on lighter, minimal intervention wines.

Last year, Niepoort’s Redoma 1996 Tinto and Branco both came second to red Bordeaux and white Burgundy at two blind tastings of iconic red and white wines.

‘Twenty years ago, French wines were the reference point; our wines always looked poor and stupid next to them, but Portugal is getting very close,’ Dirk Niepoort told Sarah Ahmed. ‘My most important mission has been to put Portugal on the map, not just look after the company or the Niepoort name.’ 

Port is still an important part of the picture. A commemorative bottle of Niepoort 1863 in a Lalique decanter set a record auction price via Sotheby’s in 2019. 


Read the full article on Hall of Fame 2023 award winner Dirk Niepoort


Rising Star 2023 award winner: Brenna Quigley

brenna quiqley

Brenna Quigley has won Decanter’s Rising Star award for 2023.

Decanter also announced that this year’s Rising Star award winner is wine-focused geologist and podcast host Brenna Quigley, based in California. 

Now in its third year, the Rising Star prize was created to recognise up-and-coming wine world talent.

Quigley is known for both exploring and explaining the complex concept of terroir. She has worked with Californian wineries such as Quintessa in Napa Valley and Carlo Mondavi’s Raen label in Sonoma, and also visited Burgundy to provide geological mapping, wrote Clive Pursehouse, Decanter’s US editor.

Carlo Mondavi said, ‘As one of the world’s foremost wine geologists, Brenna has helped us tell the story of our wines in a new, very fundamental way; not just in the vineyard but by connecting the minerality in wine’s flavour profile to the story and geological history of our site.’

Quigley’s academic research had focused on geological mapping and structural geology, and she worked extensively in the mining industry.

However, she said she first heard of the concept of ‘terroir’ whilst working in the tasting room at Kunin Wines in Santa Barbara upon graduation.  

Her podcast, Roadside Terroir, is described as ‘an audio travel guide for wine lovers who want to dig into the subject of terroir’, and takes inspiration from a series of books entitled Roadside Geology. 

Quigley believes terroir doesn’t have to be the sole preserve of higher-end wines, and that the concept is attractive to a younger demographic.

In an interview featured in the October 2023 issue of Decanter magazine, she said, ‘You may have in your glass a simpler wine that’s perfectly enjoyable, or “drinkable”, but it doesn’t mean there are not sophisticated things happening in the ground and in the weather patterns that make such a wine what it is.’  


Read the full article on Rising Star 2023 award winner Brenna Quigley


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