Terroir Históric is Dominik Huber's homage to the Priorat that time forgot.
Working co-op style with a roster of younger growers who have (with Huber's guidance) made the investment in organic, first rate viticulture, the fruit is drawn from all nine históric villages of Priorat: El Lloar, Porrera, La Vilella Baixa, La Vilella Alta, Escaladei, Bellmunt, Gratallops, Torroja and Poboleda. As part of the project Huber and co. have begun restoring the historic co-op building of Torroja, where it is hoped the wines will be made in the future, bringing together the growers of the region as it did in the past.
In the meantime, the wines are made at Terroir al Límit, they are naturally fermented and raised in cement for six months; no destemming, no stainless steel, no pigeage, no extraction, and there is no new oak. Made from 75% Grenache Blanc and Macabeo, so roughly the same blends as a generation ago.
The harvest is completely manual and we use boxes holding a maximum of 12 kilos to respect the fruit as much as possible. The grapes are placed whole in cement tanks and gently trodden. Then we close the vat and wait for the natural yeasts of the vineyard to do their work. We interfere as little as possible; there is no pigeage or remontage. This gives a transparent, smooth and easy-to-drink wine. We use a horizontal pneumatic press at low pressure, to allow the fruit to express its nature truly, making it a totally enjoyable wine.
In keeping with the philosophy of the project, cement was the only possible choice for fermentation and maturation. Terroir Històric Red rests for 6 months in cement vats. The end result is a new interpretation of the Priorat terroir without the loss of its vinous roots.
This bottling revels in its robust Mediterranean texture but with a real restraint of fruit on the nose and palate for now. You can just imagine it will flower with age delivering all kinds of beautiful honeysuckle and nutty notes. For now, the wine has a fabulous salinity running through it; a racy, chewy texture, with subtle hints of citrus pith, yellow plums and iodine. A fascinating and classy white wine that is old school in the very best sense.
On paper it sounds almost too good to be true; the terroir-obsessed Dominik Huber, (originally aided by South Africa's Swartland pioneer and wunderkind Eben Sadie), working with old Carignan and Grenache vines, aiming to produce wines of great finesse and purity from the steep llicorella/slate slopes of Priorat. A direct reaction against the heavy, oaky styles that still dominate the region, the wines of Terroir al Límit are as inspired by Burgundy as they are by recent tradition in their area. The vineyards are all around the village of Torroja. These sites are worked biodynamically; the cellar work is as minimalistic as possible, with low levels of sulphur being the only additions. Plenty of whole bunch and infusion rather than extraction as the maceration methods. There’s a shunning of new/small format wood, in favour of unlined concrete and 1,800-litre mature oak, and a staunch belief that even in a region famed for its big wines, restraint, precision and balance are where the expression of terroir is at. Since their initial experiments in 2001, the wines of Terroir al Límit have created a sensation which has since spread far beyond Priorat and Catalonia's borders. Despite Sadie’s involvement ceasing in 2011, Dominik Huber has taken both the viticulture and work in the cellar to even greater heights. If you haven't heard of this grower, don't fret; production is homeopathic. While critical and trade success has brought a great deal of attention (and local jealousy - in 2011 the winery was vandalized and a portion of their wines in barrel contaminated with household bleach), it has also served (to paraphrase Shakespeare) to hold the mirror up to Priorat winegrowers. Indeed, Terroir al Límit promotes a set of ideals and practices that have already influenced many of the more mature cellars within Priorat itself. Not often do we find ourselves tasting at a truly game-changing address, especially so in Spain. Yet these are wines to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. They are quite unlike anything we have seen from Priorat previously, and they are all the better for it.