Out with the old: Muhr-van der Niepoort and in with the
New: Weingut Dorli Muhr
Back in 2002, the year of their marriage, Dorli Muhr & Dirk Niepoort vinified their first Blaufränkisch red wines on the slopes of the great Spitzerberg in the Carnuntum region of Austria – a mere 500 bottles –, and since then the estate has grown steadily. Now, some years after they went separate ways in their private lives, they have decided to also terminate their professional partnership: Dorli Muhr is taking over the fifty-per cent holding from her Dutch/Portuguese partner. The former limited partnership Muhr-van der Niepoort has now become the individual proprietorship Weingut Dorli Muhr.
Dorli Muhr © Herbert Lehmann
Dirk Niepoort spoke of the decision with laughter in one eye and a tear in the other: ‘The Spitzerberg is an extraordinary terroir, and I find it fascinating how much of a stir we were able to create with it in just a few years. At the same time I have to acknowledge that for me personally it’s quite difficult, because of the geographic distance involved, to stay involved in the work flow of the estate. For this reason, my departure makes a great deal of sense’.
With the recent restructuring of his family business, Dirk Niepoort became sole owner of the Port house Niepoort Vinhos, founded in 1842 and located in Oporto. Under his leadership the firm has grown from an annual production of some 500,000 bottles of Port into an enterprise with vineyards in the Douro, Dao and Bairrada regions, employing some seventy workers. And along with his two sons Daniel and Marco Niepoort, he also founded the »Fio« wine estate in Germany’s Mosel Valley.
Dirk Niepoort © Jorge Simão
Dorli Muhr grew up in Rohrau in the Austrian winegrowing region Carnuntum, close to the Slovak border. In 1991, after studying at university for a career as an interpreter (French & Spanish), she founded the PR agency Wine&Partners, which currently employs fourteen experts in the field of communications and manages public relations affairs for many top-drawer wine producers and culinary projects all over the world. In 2002, together with Dirk Niepoort, she founded the wine estate, the core of which is 0.17 hectares of vines in the vineyard Ried Roterd on the Spitzerberg. These parcels, which were owned by her grandmother Katharina Muhr from 1920, were revitalised by Dorli Muhr in 1996. Since then, Dorli has been able to expand the operation – by purchasing vineyards with old vines, by replanting fallow tracts and by leasing parcels of vines in the best sites on the Spitzerberg – growing it to a substantial size for an independent Austrian wine estate. Along with assuming ownership of Dirk Niepoort’s holdings, Dorli has also been able to acquire an old building in the town of Prellenkirchen, which is now the official headquarters of the estate.
Dorli Muhr © Herbert Lehmann
‘My grandmother spent her childhood and teenage years in Prellenkirchen, and she always carried this village and the Spitzerberg with her in her heart. And for me, the hours I spent with her in the tiny vineyard parcels on the Spitzerberg were always very special. They left an indelible mark on my relationship to this place and to viticulture, and had a noteworthy influence on my entire life. My grandmother was a tough lady, a passionate farmer and a single mother, a woman who was obliged to overcome dramatic twists of fate. Despite this, her door always remained open – she always made time for visitors, went through her life with open eyes, was always helpful, fond of travel and great fun to be with. I adored her. For me it is a highly emotional moment, to return the name Muhr once more to Prellenkirchen’.
Weingut Dorli Muhr
With seven hectares of vineyard owned outright and five hectares of parcels under lease – all of which are situated on the south-facing slopes of the Spitzerberg – Weingut Dorli Muhr is today not only the leading wine estate in Prellenkirchen in terms of size, but has also brought an important dynamic to the village.
In 2004, Dorli founded a group of quality-oriented winegrowers, who worked together to establish criteria for the use of the appellation of origin »Spitzerberg«, and since then support one another in the production of fine Blaufränkisch. Through this they have been able to capture the attention of both Austrian and international wine experts. And thanks – more than a little – to this initiative, the Spitzerberg has been added to the roster of Erste Lage or “Premier Cru” vineyards by the prestigious Austrian winegrowers’ association Österreichische Traditionsweingüter.
The Spitzerberg is an extraordinary terroir, one that yields extremely concentrated, aromatically complex, yet graceful and refreshing red wines, thanks to its sandy limestone soils, direct exposure to the wind and an annual average rainfall of only 400mm. From her twelve hectares under vines, Dorli produces an average of just 35,000 bottles, of which 75% are monovarietal Blaufränkisch red wines. A quarter of the production is sold within Austria, and the most important export markets include the USA, UK, Ireland, Belgium, Holland, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Thailand & Australia. Since the 2018 vintage the estate’s wines are certified organic.
Weingut Dorli Muhr currently employs a crew of five. Eisenberg (Südburgenland) native Lukas Brandstätter is responsible for the vinification, carefully tending helping the precious grapes become elegant wines.
From 2002–2018 the estate was known as Muhr-van der Niepoort. As of August 2019 (vintage 2017), the name of the enterprise is Weingut Dorli Muhr.
Weingut Dorli Muhr
A small parcel on the Ried Roterd is the heart of the whole project. This vineyard was a wedding gift to Dorli’s grandmother Katharina Muhr in 1912. In 2002 – and together with her then husband Dirk van der Niepoort – Dorli Muhr started the renaissance of the Spitzerberg. The project has developed steadily since then. Dorli Muhr now cultivates twelve hectares of vineyards on the Spitzerberg, practicing organic viticulture. The yields are quite meagre and the wines extremely concentrated; thanks to the limestone soils they are elegant and graceful as well.