We rightfully anchored our post graduation ceremony celebration with a potpourri of sparklers including two that previously received favorable reviews here, NV Chidaine Montlouis Methode Traditionelle Brut Loire and NV Aubry Brut Premier Cru, Champagne plus a really interesting and exotic sparkling Malvasia Dell’Emilia value that you will read about at WineZag soon. But on this late afternoon into early evening celebration, our graduates’ 1991 Clos Centeilles birth year wine from Minervois, turned all heads and palates.
I owe the discovery of this wine to Eric Broerge, President and Wine Director at Vintages. I break habits hard, so I only recently connected and started doing some business with Eric at his shop in West Concord which appears exclusively stocked with wines he wants to personally drink, especially the deep Barolo, Baraberesco, and Burgundy inventories. He travels to Europe regularly and clearly searches out honest, natural, artisan wines that express their unique geographies. It does not take long to see that Eric’s passion and knowledge are respectively effusive and deep; both impressive and most certainly infectious.
A top regional producer of Cinsaut, this bottling from winemaker Patricia Boyer-Domergue is a cuvee of Mourvedre, Grenache , and Syrah. Eric recently brought these library wines back from the Minervois wineries’ cellars, a place my mind does not immediately flash to when pondering wine regions and age-worthiness. He is selling the wine for about $40 a bottle before discount, and I made sure to secure more of this 1991 Clos Centeilles in multiple formats before spreading the news. It is amazing that a Minervois producer is focused on bottle aging and that Vintages is bringing it in. I usually hate to pay someone for the time and privilege of room in their cellar, but at this price and on wine this good it feels like a steal. The wine maker here is thinking quality and long term, as evidenced in this explanation of her approach to Mourvedre:
The “Clos Centeilles” owes a lot to Mourvèdre planted on marine limestones from the tertiary. Being among the very first in Languedoc-Roussillon to have planted this very difficult varietal other than in limited experiments, we have the good fortune today to own vines which are well balanced both in age and production. As pioneers of its rehabilitation, we have “worsened our case” by pruning it in the “lyre” fashion which we have helped to propagate in the Languedoc. The Mourvèdre grape variety acquires an exceptional ripening quality with this method…..
While Mourvèdre is somewhat a thankless varietal which requires patience, the Syrah from our oldest parcels brings the harmony of its well-ripened tannins to our Clos. As for Grenache Noir, it is picked as roasted as possible and blended in the vat with one of the other two grape varieties which it will amplify. Its warmth will [provide] the cuvée with a smoothness which is specific to Grenache Noir.
Clos Centeilles is an ideal wine forlaying down which will not, however, remain taciturn over 10 years.
The wine drinks like old Burgundy or Bordeaux. There is smoke and incense jumping from the glass, and a major league dose of Asian spice. I was so blown away by the spice, that I went into the spice cabinet while we were tasting and pulled out a box of multiple spices I brought back from Hong Kong, and went around the room flashing the spice box under everyone’s nose while we all marveled at the aromatic match. I thought it was primarily the Szechuan peppercorns (illegal in this country until recently), but isolating them proved my theory wrong, and it was the full blend of asian spices that mirrored the wine. Accompanying the smoke and spice is a pure vein of raisin on the nose. The Clos Centeilles offers a woody sweetness and delivers a rich and velvety mouthfeel in the familiar style of old Bordeaux or Burgundy.
This is twenty year old wine, that has improved and taken on secondary flavors and aromatics that are sexy and intoxicating. How lucky to have met Eric at Vintages and to get to enjoy this special find from the Languedoc for $40. And with a philosophy as strongly grounded as this, how could you not become an ardent fan of Mme. Boyer-Domergue’s wines:
…the more we ourselves progress in the winemaking field, the more we think that today’s essentials for producing great cuvées such as,”hyper technology” cellar equipement and the so-called genius and inspirations of winemakers, are literature for the naive. Not only don’t [we] believe in the cult of the “star-winemaker” which can make a winemaker into a “super-star”, but also, we agree with Paul Pontallier of Chateau Margaux, that : “the great winemakers are those who know how to hide modestly behind their terroirs in order to serve them better’.