I’ll make one very early prediction for next year; we’ll be offering more incredibly individual Spanish wines than ever before. Why? We are tasting more and more fascinating examples made by skilled winemakers, and the resultant wines are outstanding. The only challenge can be getting hold of them as some are made in tiny, if not minute, quantities.
One such example is the 2018 Dits del Terra from Terroir Al Limit – a spellbinding Priorat from an estate which was founded in 2001 by Dominik Huber and Eben Sadie. Huber hails from Bavaria and has a background in food, whereas Sadie is comfortably one of the highest profile and most highly regarded winemakers in South Africa. Dominik Huber simply describes his aims at Terroir Al Limit as seeking to establish the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti of Spain – a useful promotional statement, but from hearing his words and tasting the wines it is clear that Huber and Sadie see huge potential in Priorat in Catalonia.
Priorat is a taxing place to make wine – it is a very steep region, notably hot and dry, with stony soils and yields can be dramatically low. What Priorat is or stands for is changing. Once, it was home to a number of heady wines made largely as a blend incorporating non-indigenous grape varieties, and yet today an increasingly meaningful group of growers are focusing on traditional Catalan varieties and have moved completely away from the richer, more extracted, oakier wines that dominated the region in the past. So, if you think you know Priorat based on wines you tasted five or ten years ago, it might be worth you thinking again.
Elegance is the first thing that strikes you about the wines of Terroir Al Limit – the focus is on purity and the expression of the site. Almost all winemakers cite these goals, but few really achieve them. Yet by farming biodynamically, practising whole bunch pressing, using indigenous yeast, employing gentle extraction, and using only old oak or concrete for the maturation of their wines, they have laid the wines bare. What I mean by that is there is no heavy handed manipulation or shaping of the wines and the interest in the glass comes from the site more than the interventions of a winemaker. In a year like 2018, which was a cooler, more even growing season for Priorat with no spikes of heat, the results are magnified; the product of fruit that has had the chance to ripen slowly and has retained valuable acidity.
The Dits del Terra is made from 100% Cariñena, a variety that is found in northeastern Spain and through the south of France on account of its preference for warm, dry climates. Old bush-trained vines such as those found in Priorat tend to limit the yield of this otherwise productive variety and need to be hand-harvested, delivering deep wines, with significant tannins and almost always a bright acidity. It can also offer more savoury, spicy nuances as well as peppery characters and liquorice. There seems to be an inherent vibrancy to the best Cariñena and surprising refinement. The Dits del Terra’s vines are in excess of 60 years old and grown on south-facing slopes at an altitude of 350 to 400 metres on the famous stripy llicorella soils of the region.
I think the 2018 is a beautiful wine and marks this estate out as one to watch. To me, the 2018 shows a melange of floral notes and juicy small dark fruits on the nose. This is echoed on the palate with notes of bluberry, spice and mineral at the fore. It has a touch of that spiced raspberry note that you can find in the wines of the Rhône, yet a distinctive lightness of touch. Long, pure and elegant, it possesses terrific refinement with mineral and peppery notes linerging long into the finish. This is a wine that you can broach on the young side and I would probably drink by 2028 as the freshness it shows is central to its success.
Please see below for Luis Gutiérrez’s own note on robertparker.com.