Terroir Al Limit - Priorat - 18/03/14
I love Priorat wines. Always have, always will. I’m a huge fan of minerality, of being able to taste that distinctive something which transports you to the very place the wine was made, so for me Priorat, with its clear-cut graphite Llicorella touches, is always a tasty drop. On this occasion, it went to new levels.
Winemaker and owner of Terroir Al Limit Dominik Huber is a dreamer. After a trip to Tuscany where he became overwhelmed by the pure and simple quality of the food and wine in the local Trattorias, he dreamt about living a life revolving around Mediterranean food and flavours.
Dominik met renowned South African winemaker Eben Sadie in 2000 at Mas Martinet and in 2001 they spent six weeks together harvesting grapes for the Perez family at Cims de Porrera. They became good friends and soon decided they needed to start their own project in Pirorat. With the help of the Perez family, whom they bought grapes off, and who let them use a small corner of their cellar at Cims de Porrera, they vinified their first vintage of Dits del Tierra 2001.
The history of Priorat is fairly recent, making its way onto the world wine stage really only from the late 1980s. In 1989, Rene Barbier and Alvario Palacios visited Priorat and realised its up until then unexamined potential. Using modern winemaking techniques and international grape varieties, their wines quickly gained enormous international success and put Priorat firmly on the map.
Huber and Sadie began making their wines in the same way. The combination of vinifing very ripe and concentrated grapes, using modern extraction methods and winemaking techniques, followed by ageing in 225-litre French oak barriques, produced rich, powerful, full bodied wines such as the 2004 Arbossar and Dits del Tierra.
After a meal at the legendary 3 Michelin Star restaurant El Cellar de Can Roca in nearby Girona, Huber decided his wines weren’t quite producing the true expression that the Priorat terroir could deliver. Out of a line up of 15 wines served with the meal, just 3 of them were red. Huber realised that white wines, or at least much lighter red wines with higher acidity, less alcohol and more elegance and finesse, were what the food of this Mediterranean region was crying out for. (I wonder when China will wake up to this white wine and food matching phenomenon?!)
Huber therefore decide to start harvesting earlier, got rid of the small oak barrels, completely changed from an extraction method of winemaking to the historic Burgundian style: whole cluster fermentation (no destemming) without pigeage or remontage. An infusion style of winemaking rather than an extraction one to avoid the strength and heaviness which had been achieved in the first vintages.
Using only varieties native to Priorat, Huber farms entirely organically and biodynamically. This ensures the highest possible vitality in his soils in order to obtain wines which are light and fluid, full of tension and vibrancy, wines which speak entirely of the place from which they come.
The tiny wooden cellar door through which the skinny Terroir Al Limit team have to fit each morning, was just one size too slim for Robert Parker when he last tried to visit the winery. The wines were therefore left off his rating list until recently when a new, skinnier member of his tasting team was sent to investigate. The results, recently published, were unprecedented: 13 of Huber’s wines were rated 91 points or higher with 6 of them ranking amongst the highest in the whole of Priorat. My advice: buy now to avoid severe disappointment!
Pedra de Guix 2011
A third each of Garnacha Blanca/ Macabeo/ PX
Lovely ripe lemon citrus on the nose with a mineral, floral touch. Wonderful aromas very pretty, elegant, scented and complex. Great minerality on palate with lovely tangy acidity. Perfect aperitivo and with tapas 17.5
Dits del Terra 2010
100% Carinena. Lovely fresh raspberry and plum fruit with touches of blackberry and graphite liquorice. Fresh acidity, mineral, very pure and elegant. Fine, chalky tannins. Wonderful balance. A delight to drink. 17.5
100% Carinena. Deep, spicy nose of raspberry, red cherries and plums with floral touches. Bright and fresh on the palate with lovely mouthfeel. Wonderfully pure, very elegant with fine, ripe tannins, high acidity and long lasting length. A great wine. 18
Oak and extraction more evident here from the original style of winemaking. Much bigger fruit with higher alcohol than the 2010. Very Spanish in style with tons of black fruit character, plum and raspberry, oak, spice and toast. Nice rounded tannins but a full on, hot style, slightly baked, with warming alcohol on the finish. 17
Dits del Terra 2004
Deep black fruit on the nose, black cherry, black plum, blackcurrant, spice and toasty oak. Full bodied and powerful with high, slightly warming alcohol. Extracted and bold yet balanced. A big wine with lovely ripe tannins. Long lasting finish. All power and extraction vs the 2010’s elegance and finesse. Great to try the two different styles side by side. 17.5
Les Manyes 2011
100% Garnacha grown at 800m altitude in clay-limestone soils. Wonderful fresh perfumed scents of floral liquorice, raspberry and cherry. Spicy and a touch gamey. A certain wild, rustic note. Amazingly elegant. Great mouth-filling body with brilliant structure, chalky tannins, so complex and deep. Pure, fresh, bright acidity. A wine for hours of contemplation. Paired perfectly with oven roasted pigeon. A truly stunning wine. 19
Les Tosses 2011
100% Carinena grown in black slate soils. Highly perfumed, very floral and mineral. Slightly closed nose to begin with but opened up wonderfully on palate. More structured than Manyes. Still young. High chalky tannins need time to soften. Very structured and very deep. Plenty of elegant fruit and floral character on the palate. Great power, intensity yet finesse. Long complex finish. A food wine. Not as drinkable as the Manyes at the moment but will be. Would love to see in 5-20 years time. 18.5
Les Manyes 2008
Evidently young as a touch closed on the nose to begin with. Opened up to give lovely perfumed, spicy red fruit notes. Rounded, fine tannins, lovely acidity with great structure. Wonderfully vibrant but quite tight. 2008 was a much cooler vintage than 2011 so the wine was slightly less open. However this vintage will age amazingly well. Extraordinary vitality and tension. A wine to buy to keep and relish in years to come. 19
All wines are available to buy from Prowine in Hong Kong