The first wine that Dirk Niepoort ever made, back in 1990, was an old-vine blend of local Portuguese varieties, from a vineyard called Quinta do Carril in Portugal's Douro Valley. He called it Robustus. The name was apt: The wine was, as he recalls, "a monster." It was massive and powerfully tannic, almost overbearing in its intensity—but still, he felt, quite good. At the time, almost no one else in the Douro was making table wines. Port ruled the region, as it had since the 1700s. The Niepoort family business, which Dirk's father, Rolf, directed, was port.