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"For five years, this project was an ongoing story in my mind," Dominik Huber explained as we ascended the steep cobblestone street leading to the town square of Torroja del Priorat, the postcard-perfect, Catalan mountain village where he lives and works in a small garage winery on the edge of town. A gorgeous yellow building dominates the town square. It is the former cooperative winery and olive oil mill of Torroja and soon-to-be home of Terroir Historic, a label that Huber invented (having focused for 15 years straight on single-vineyard, single-variety, and single-village bottlings for Terroir al Límit) to showcase the quality and character of the Priorat winegrowing region at large by combining fruit from organically farmed vineyards in (up to) all nine Priorat villages.
Huber first came to the Priorat in 1996 from his native Germany, eager to get his hands dirty working at Mas Martinet winery for a business school internship. The Priorat captured his imagination and he kept coming back, eventually making his own wine and acquiring his own vineyards. Twenty years later, his lively, intricate reds and wide-ranging, often ethereal whites for Terroir al Límit have cemented his reputation among adventurous wine consumers and professionals alike as one of the most thought-provoking winemakers in the region. His quest to minimize alcohol levels, extraction, and oak in this famously high-voltage region and to communicate a restrained aesthetic in tandem with Priorat terroir has attracted a loyal following of wine drinkers who share these ideals. Strict adherence to organic farming (with some biodynamic methods) and minimal SO2 play a central role in achieving his goals.
Dominik’s aesthetic is driven by gastronomy and the impulse to produce balanced, delicious wines that pair well with the foods he likes to cook and eat, emphasizing fresh local ingredients with very clean flavors. (Not incidentally, he is a dynamite cook!) Priorat wines are often associated with high alcohol and dense flavors, which absolutely sing alongside awesome local recipes for lamb and rabbit (including some of the most enticing combinations of mar i muntanya–Catalan for ‘surf and turf'–you will ever taste) but can overwhelm lighter everyday fare. The Terroir Historic wines (like Terroir al Límit) also pair beautifully with meats and heartier dishes, but without the weight that disqualifies some Priorats from pairing with vegetables and fish.
Many vintages of reflection and experimentation were required to settle on a winemaking style that ensured balance: gentle infusions rather than vigorous extraction, whole cluster fermentations, short macerations, aging in large vessels with minimal lees contact, and no punchdowns or pumpovers. With these questions resolved, and having recently purchased a magnificent plot of land high in the Montsant mountains (including Les Manyes vineyard) it was time for Huber to embark on this ambitious new chapter of his career in the Priorat.
2015 is the first vintage of Terroir Historic. Vinifications are simple and short. Organically farmed grapes from multiple Priorat villages (and, consequently, a range of vineyard age, exposure, altitude, and soils) are co-fermented in large concrete tanks, where they spend a brief elevage before being bottled as a single red and a single white wine. The results are fresh and delicious young wines with complex earthy and herbal layers and plenty of Terroir al Límit-style texture, tannin, fragrance, and verve. In the future, Huber plans to expand Terroir Historic to highlight the natural bounty of the Priorat beyond wine: world-class olive oil, hazelnuts, honey, vinegar, lamb, and seafood (from nearby Tarragona) are ubiquitous in this region, corresponding to a very sophisticated local dining scene. We are excited to sample everything that Dominik has in store for Terroir Historic! For now, we are pleased to be drinking this fabulous and affordable pair of wines from one of the Priorat's finest. Ariana Rolich
Dominik Huber is a bold and innovative force in the Priorat today, challenging convention and expectations with his steady progress toward lower alcohol and extraction in his fascinating single-vineyard/village/variety bottlings for Terroir Al Límit, centered around his adopted home town of Torroja. Huber's new label, Terroir Historic, offers a macro view of the Priorat by combining fruit from organically-farmed vineyards all around the Priorat's nine villages into a regional wine. Vinification is simple and traditional with whole cluster, native yeast fermentations, six months in large concrete tanks and a minimum of SO2. The white is Garnatxa Blanca and Macabeu, from both young and old vines and a mix of Priorat terroirs. Fiesty and bright, with orange rind, bee pollen, honey, and a hint of petrol on the nose; effusive tannins frame the medium-bodied palate, with orange oil, watermelon rind, apricot, and salty mineral notes. An incredibly interesting and delicious wine that will change the way you view the Priorat. Ariana Rolich
Dominik Huber makes waves in the Priorat with his Terroir Al Límit reds, single-vineyard Cariñena and Garnatxa with dramatically less ripeness, alcohol, and extraction than many of his neighbors dare to attempt. His new label, Terroir Historic, offers a regional view of the Priorat by combining fruit from organically-farmed vineyards all around the Priorat's nine villages. This is a regional wine, as opposed to an expression of one vineyard or village - a meaningful (and much less expensive) complement to the focused wines of Terroir al Límit! Whereas Terroir Historic Blanc is cerebral and textured, teeming with earth and mineral expression, Terroir Historic Red is luscious, fruit-driven, aromatic, and versatile, with Huber's trademark restraint. Garnatxa and Cariñena from the Priorat's famous llicorella soils, as well as the lesser-known clay and alluvial terroirs that dot this complex region are fermented with whole clusters with native yeasts and ten days on the skins before a brief six month elevage in large concrete tanks. Aromas of herbal raspberry and cranberry with strawberry blossoms and blackberry seeds infuse the tense, acidic, lightly tannic palate of brambly black raspberry, crumbly schist, pepper, and dried Mediterranean herbs. A Priorat for minimalists! Ariana Rolich