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For those of us who came up in the business in the 1990s and early 2000s Priorat was a thrilling discovery. It was the old school new school wine: venerable old vines, chock full of power, ripe juicy concentration, towering structure, and in many cases dizzyingly expensive—wild in every aspect. Of course hosannas and high scores by influential critics followed, which begat more concentration, more new oak, and still more points. And soon Priorat became more brand-driven than soil-driven, or so it seemed. For all the glossy, new school wines there were and are still some truly beautiful Priorats being made, including Scala Dei, Cims de Porrera, and newcomer Terroir Al Limit.
Terroir Al Limit is the creation of German Dominik Huber and South African Eben Sadie, who met at Mas Martinet. Priorat was a magical place for Huber who recognized the potential for site specific wines of restraint and intricacy in a region more-associated with high-octane, extracted oaky bottlings. Diligent organic farming (with some biodynamic methods), moderate sulfur addition, and vinification that prioritizes infusion over extraction result in wines of elegance and detail rather than bombast. One senses these are wines for the table rather than the trade tasting, with bright acidity and suppleness rather than power and weight.
And speaking of the table, Huber is a noted gastronome and on his visits to Chambers Street Wines has espoused pairing his wines not just with the famous foods of the region (lamb and rabbit), but with lighter everyday foods that will shown off by these graceful wines. Finally, Priorats for vegetarians and pescavores! Of particular note are the white wines which cry out for grilled monkfish or lobster, or a gratin of eggplant and summer tomatoes. The reds have enough bright energy and fine-grained tannin to inspire pairing with rare tuna and piperade or a tomato, fennel, and saffron-infused seafood stew, though roasted quail or lamb loin wouldn't be unwelcome.
And it should be noted that Dominik Huber offers someting of a Burgundian hierarchy with negociant wines (Terroir Historic) offering a fine entry point to explore the Terroir Al Limit house style, as well as village level, premier cru, and grand cru bottlings, perhaps better suited to cellaring. All are excellent and favor finesse and complexity over raw power, cooperage, or excess. And as the name implies the terroir expression of each cuvée is distinctive with soil and slope and aspect articulated in each bottle.
*Please note wines are pre-arrival and will arrive 5/21.
Terroir Al Límit 2016 Priorat Terra de Cuques White Arrives 5/21
90% Pedro Ximénez, 10% Muscat d’Alexandria. The Muscat is is from schistous and clay-limestone soils in El Molar. The Pedro Ximénez is foot trodden, then direct pressed whole-cluster and fermented . The is Muscat fermented whole cluster, pressed down by foot, and macerated for one week before pressing and fermentation in tank before addition to the PX.Pale lemon sherbet yellow. More effusively floral and aromatic. Pretty wildflower, honeydew, bee pollen aromas. Just this side of exotic/tropical. Palate is textured, and phenolic (no tannins from skin contact such as it is), fine minerality. More sophisticated richness than historic, just shy of honeyed. Fine finish, with flush of energy on back end. One can sense the limestone here. Satisfying. Good possibilities at the table. Monkfish or skate, perhaps turbot? Alcohol in check. Very good-very good+
Terroir Historic (Terroir Al Límit) 2018 Priorat Negre Arrives 5/21
A Garnatxa-dominant blend with Carinyena. Darker robe. Dense aromatically, a bit gamey with ripe blue fruits on the nose. A bit lactic. Good drive given the weight, broad midpalate.A bit foursquare relative to the other reds, but a fine grilling wine with some age to allow elements to knit.
Terroir Al Límit 2016 Priorat Dits del Terra Arrives 5/21
Terroir al Limit 2016 Dits del Terre 13.5% abv (This considered a 1er cru) 60 plus-year-old Carinyena (some say 85 years) vines in south-facing schist soils at 400 meters. Dark limpid ruby robe. High-toned. Beautifully ripe mulberry and violets on the nose. Bonny inner mouth perfume. Perfectly ripe and poised, gem-like precision. This is lovely. The supple fineness of the soil notes sends the mind north. This shows real class without seeming slick or forced. Great length and drive. Bright, lifted finish. In a word, lovely. Excellent juice here. John McIlwain
Terroir Al Límit 2016 Priorat Les Tosses Arrives 5/12
100% head-pruned 90-year-old Carinyena on licorello soil. Whole cluster fermentation with native yeast. More infused than extracted, but the soil notes shine through. Dark ruby robe. Magnificent nose of perfectly ripe raspberry and morello cherry syrup with wet stone aromas. The ripeness here is pitch perfect and in equilibrium with the structure. It han elemental ripeness (sweetness without sugar, if you will) without heat or excess. Again, the inner mouth perfume is exquisite, and everything is in place without seeming manicured. Truly lovely and while one is tempted to make comparisons with grand cru Cote de Nuits, this has its own character and deserves to stand on its own substantial merits. Beautiful and expansive on the finish. Fabulous length. Gorgeous. Really a knockout. John McIlwain
Terroir Al Límit 2017 Priorat Les Manyes Arrives 5/21
Garnatxa from old vines above historic Scala Dei planted in gypsum and chalk. Fermented whole-cluser, with indigenous yeasts. Huber presses gently halfway through fermentation and ages in concrete tank. Densely aromatic, deep-pitched plummy red fruits and a whiff of vine smoke on the nose. Pretty, but powerful, though by no means clumsy or coarse. Concentrated, but not extracted on the palate. Plenty of soil tone and limestone zang beneath the richness. Good length, though this seems a bit clenched and in need of serious cellaring. There’s a hell of a wine here for those with the patience. Excellent, potentially profound. Great breed here.