• Priorat Re-Discovered:  Terroir Al Límit

    Priorat Re-Discovered: Terroir Al Límit

    My first visit after landing in Barcelona took me 2 hours northwest to the land of llicorella in Priorat. In many ways Priorat was the single region that pulled me to the Old World as a primarily California drinker as I was finishing college. The llicorella (black slate) of these high altitude vineyards, often resembling a lunar landscape, imparted colossal minerality and a full-throttle inky, black fruit quality that hypnotized me from first sip. While my palate has changed quite a lot since the early 2000's, it has been a huge surprise to see a winemaker here who, in tandem, changed the profile of Priorat. Dominik Huber's Terroir Al Límit shows a face of the region that diverges drastically from the norm, and constructs wines true to this slate foundation, except with a transparency and fresh streak that's altogether singular.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the four wines from Terroir Al Limit's 2014 release that opened the window for me to see Priorat's magic in a shimmering light.

    Terroir Al Límit's lineup is centered around Garnacha and Carinyena's explosive violet aromatics, met with wild strawberry and an array of blue fruit tones. The slate and clay soils that are so special to Priorat endow each wine with a deeply layered and saturating mineral punch that forms the cornerstone of all wines. But, alas, building trends over the 1990's have placed just about every winery of this region into a camp of high extraction and high oak influence that obscures an authentic sense of place. And, that's where Huber raced in stage left. 

    First and foremost, Dominik employs an organic and biodynamic approach. Given the arid climate, one would imagine this a popular regimen, but it's still incredibly rare. Secondly, infusion and semi-carbonic fermentations make Terroir Al Límit a completeoutlier. This whole cluster fermentation limits extraction and keeps the beastly tannins at bay a bit. His aging in Austria's Stockinger foudres is also an integral key to preserving the delineation and more filigreed expressions of terroir.

    When deciding which cuvées might appeal to you most, I'd like to really hammer home one point. Rarely have I visited a region where grape variety falls into the background behind terroir as much as in Priorat with Huber's style. Garnacha does best in more clay-dominant sites, and the wines show this more broad sensation on the palate, with arguably a touch more in the red fruit camp. Carinyena, alternatively, is best suited on pure llicorella and schist, where a more vertical and incisive personality forms, with a touch darker profile and scorched earth traits.  

    In the end, this is the one destination in Priorat that you must become familiar with if your palate has lead you to Burgundy and traditional Northern Rhône. Although the wines here would never be mistaken for the aforementioned, the clarity and poise found in glass is founded on similar principles. 

    Torroja Vi De La Vila is the "village" wine here, consisting of equal parts Garnacha and Carinyena from 50-75-yr-old vines. This is the sole wine of Terroir Al Límit that sees a blending of these two main varieties.

    Abrossar taps 90-yr-old Cariyena from a north-facing slope. This exposition was of little interest to many vignerons in times past, but with warming temperatures and Huber's insistence on freshness over power, this wine today is the model for Carinyena's prospects of levity and elegance.

    Les Manyes taps 50-yr-old Garnacha vines from clay-based soils. Broad and saturating with more red fruit tones and a long mineral-driven finish.

    Les Tosses (where Dominik and I are pictured above) is a steep and very high altitude Carinyena vineyard containing 90-yr-old vines. Along with Les Manyes, this is the magnum opus of Terroir Al Límit.

    * Decanting each wine for over 30 minutes prior to drinking is highly recommended.

    Today, finding myself so far removed from the powerhouse-styled wines that I gravitated towards a decade ago can leave me a bit melancholy at times, as that was such an exciting period in my growing interest in wine. But, landing on the sole domaine that harnesses all of those rare traits of Priorat in a more understated style that speaks to my palate today is simply thrilling. Sharing my passion is the goal everyday as I write these offers, and I cannot think of a better stop on the wine route to illustrate a region's promise in shifting a style as what Dominik has done with Terroir Al Límit.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen