April 30, 2010 Terroir al Límit
Terroir al Límit Dits del Terra
This wine came to life less than 100 km to the south of Costers del Segre, home to the bottle of the previous entry. Yet the two wines are worlds apart. Dits del Terra generally retails at more than four times the price of the other. And it bears inbreed status, coming, as it does, from Priorat, the revitalized, nouveau-prestigious DO of Spain. Here can be found some of the most sought-after, highly-scored Spanish wines. Combine that with very low yields and limited production, and you have cult wines whose price points fly well out of the range of most wine drinkers. In fact the only reason this wine is making an appearance here is because it fell unceremoniously into the clearance section of my local liquor outlet, even if that might be more a reflection of tight economic times and lack of knowledge about the winery, than it is about the quality of the wine. (Living, as I do, out of the population mainstream does have distinct wine advantages.)
But let’s first see what is to be found in the bottle.
Terroir al Límit Dits del Terra 2004
There’s a lot to cheer about with this wine. Smooth and polished, it has instant class. Richly pleasurable from start to finish, making it obvious that considerable care has gone into what finds its way into the bottle. There is a wonderful concentration of fruit, of cassis and spice, of rich plum compote. The taste is set within an admirable structure. It is a wine that is sleekly appealing, with a persistent, long finish. And is it worth the original price? Especially since the price came from its origins and low production (less than 4400 bottles) rather than from a reputation built over decades? Only the market will decide. $$$
It is interesting that EBEN SADIE, owner and winemaker, has expressed some dissatisfaction with the beginning vintages of this wine, referring to them as being too composed and French-like. He’s been quoted as saying, ‘From 2006 everything was placed on its head.’ He is out for something other than what I just experienced. I appreciate a maverick, a winemaker willing to go beyond success in a search for something more profound. As much as I liked the 2004 (and it is a very good wine), I did feel I had been down the road before, and at less the price.
Sadie is from South Africa and it is there he established his reputation, in Swartland, producing the exceptional Columella, perhaps that country’s most noteworthy red wine. While still in his 20s he set his sights farther afield, to Spain, where he had discovered the terroir of Priorat. He spent time working with other winemakers in the region and then he and a partner took the plunge. Since the late 1990s he has acquired several small, but exceptional, holdings. The soil is predominately slate (schist), locally known as “llicorella”. Some vines date back almost a hundred years. All are on hilly, harsh terrain where work can only be done by hand.
Dits del Terra (Fingers of the Earth) is evolving, with Sadie’s methods of vinification changing to what he feels will produce a wine that is truer to the terroir. He is veering away from the region’s preference for 100% oak (which housed the ’04), and which he found produced quality wines at the cost of a sameness, a universality, and not something he was seeking in his wines. Now some of the vinification has shifted to larger oval casks (“foudres”) and egg-shaped concrete vessels (“ouefs”).
Sadie’s attention to his grapes is meticulous, something which the size of his operation allows. What character will emerge in the newer vintages will likely take some time to make itself fully known. (Priorat was not built in a day.) I am anxious to find out, and if a few future bottles slip below my price ceiling I may well have a great treat in store.