Dominik Huber of Terroir al Limit: Priorat is a virgin beauty

Describing Priorat as “a virgin beauty”, Dominik Huber of boutique winery Terroir al Limit believes that there’s a growing trend in the region to ditch Bordeaux-style heavy wines for fresher, lighter, terroir-driven wines.

Dominik Huber was presenting his wines at Watson’s Wine’s grand tasting. Shown here are his ‘Pedra de Guix’, ‘Arbossar’ and ‘Les Manyes’ wines.

Describing the region’s terroir as “exceptional” and “extremely outstanding”, the vintner lamented that in the past 30 years, because of wine critic Robert Parker’s preference for big and powerful wines, many wineries “covered the beauty and poise of Priorat with extraction and oak.”

“Priorat is a virgin beauty,” said Huber, who started Terroir al Limit in 2001 with South Africa’s Swartland pioneer, winemaker Eben Sadie. “It has its advantages and disadvantages. It has this kind of stylistic wines that Parker liked. He likes powerful wines, and big wines, and he has no problem with oak.”

“In many other places like Super Tuscan, south of Tuscany, you also have similar approach,” he continued. “It’s a beautiful place, so some people thought we have to make a great wine in a great place. But what is great wine? It’s this kind of a Bordeaux idea.”

This prompted winemakers to plant Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet and Merlot in the past 30 years over Grenache and Carignan.

“First of all, they chose wrong grape varieties. In Priorat, there are a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This doesn’t work, not on schist, not with this kind climate. First the key to Priorat is the authentic grape varieties – Grenache and Carignan,” he stated, noting that Carignan works better on the region’s famous llicorella soil compared with Grenache.

“It’s Carignan that has the thick skin and all the acidity that makes the wine alive and fresh and crispy. Grenache, you need a very specific vineyard and site in Priorat. You need altitude as well. Otherwise Grenache is getting overripe, too big, and lacks acidity and freshness, then wine becomes tired, and won’t age well,” he explained.

Huber makes different ranges of wines from generic level to his single vineyard ‘grand cru’ cuvée such as his ‘Les Manyes’ wines. In 2003, he launched the ‘Arbossar’ range followed by ‘Torroja’ in 2005, ‘Les Manyes’  and ‘Tosses’ in 2006 and ‘Pedra de Guix’ in 2008. In 2011, he added ‘Terra de Cuques’ to his range.

After Sadie left Priorat for South Africa in 2006, Huber took full control of the winery’s direction.

“The more I was taking over, the wine changed into having a more fluent, crispy, light, non-oaky style,” he explained, adding that he has since got rid of small oak barrels, and adopted a more Burgundian approach, using whole cluster fermentation without pigéage or remontage.

Today, about 85% of his wines are exported, with around 20% to Asia, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore. Starting from this year, his wines are available in mainland China as well. Terroir al Limit wines are available in Hong Kong through Watson’s Wine.

One Response to “Dominik Huber of Terroir al Limit: Priorat is a virgin beauty”

  1. George says:

    Ironic that he slags on Parker scores when that’s the one publication where he gets the highest points, seemingly just because the wines are different as the new direction makes for a lot of head scratching and well as wallet digging.

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