Welcome to The Last Sip, a monthly in-depth look at a featured Provision’s wine, written by Maria Williams, writer, editor, and food and memoir blogger at www.whyarethebirdshere.wordpress.com.
This month’s wine:
Name - Scintilha, Les Vignes Libertines
Year – 2015
Vineyard - Clos Centeilles
Region – Minervois, Languedoc, France
Price - $14.99
Scintilha, The Libertine Vines of Clos Centeilles
Wine-lovers, I am having a moment. This marks the first review I am writing for Provisions, my favorite wine shop—nay, my favorite shop—here in the Valley. It’s been a mini dream, and what better than to top off my reverie with a bottle of Scintilha, Les Vignes Libertines, a bright, complex, and highly affordable red made by wine maven Patricia Boyer-Domergue from Clos Centeilles in southern France?
Under the Sun with Patricia Boyer-Domergue of Languedoc
I am always interested in female winemakers, especially those working in harmony with nature. Patricia Boyer-Domergue fits snugly into this category. A natural wine maker, all her wines, if manipulated anywhere along the route from soil to bottle are done so on the vine, not in the vat. No chemicals ever. No additional ingredients.
Imagine a Mediterranean sun bathing 100-year old vines in the unassuming town of Minervois in Languedoc just north of Spain and west of the sea. It’s hot. Stony scrub brush and rock glint under the bright sky where the white-haired Boyer-Domergue is pruning vines in specific angles according to specific elevations, a geometry that coaxes out the flavors she particular to her wines. There, with her husband and daughter, she meticulously works her 15 hectares, littered with Roman ruins and olive trees, to produce excellent wines with her own twist.
Arriving in Minervois in the late ‘80s after studying enology in Bordeuax, Boyer-Domergue purchased the ancient plot of Clos Centeilles and reintroduced a handful of indigenous grape varietals back into the locale. Those rare grapes--Picpoul Noir, Oeillade, Riveirenc and Terret Noir—come from rescued century-old vines she tirelessly nurtured for years and have become the mainstay of her vintages, for which she has gained a good reputation. Many of them are made to stand the test of time, so opening a 1990 Clos Centeilles is a serious treat.
And because Minervois and the Languedoc area has long been touted as a place for cheap, sweet wine, the complexity of Clos Centeilles’ is making a mark for the region. In-the-know critics are taking notice, surprised that anything with the depth and energy of Boyer-Domergue’s wines are coming from there.
Scintilha 2015 - Drink It Here, Drink It There, Drink It Anywhere
Scintilha, Les Vignes Libertines, which translates to Spark, The Libertine Vines, qualifies as a unique offering from the Clos Centeilles estate. Here, the grape is pure Censault, usually considered a Rosé grape known for its strong aroma and soft tannins. Popular in the region, only a few producers are using it on its own for reds these days. Clos Centeilles uses it solo in several of their best bottles, but this Scintilha is somewhat of an anomaly—a small batch wine not even available on the estate’s website with a name that suggests these particular vines have a mind of their own. Andy, one of Provision’s resident wine experts, posits perhaps Scintilha is an act of rebellious artistry by Boyer-Domergue’s daughter, now following in her mother’s footsteps.
Maybe that’s why I approached it the way I did--admittedly, taking my first sips standing in the middle of the kitchen, stuffing my face with salty almond-flower crackers and smoked goat gouda because I had forgotten to eat lunch and was starving, the bottle staring at me from the counter. Not sure that’s exactly libertine of me since I am never afraid to drink quality wine in the least pretentious of scenarios, but it was liberating. Wine, in my opinion, should fit handily into your everyday whether it’s at the dinner table or not.
Even in that impromptu pairing, Scintilha was quite good and expressed itself as a balance of opposites. It’s juicy but dry, soft but with hints of pepper and spice, and earthy but bright. The fruit flavors layer dark berries over red ones. There’s minerality too--flint and copper perhaps—as well as a kind of funky woodiness, most noticeable on the nose. This is the complexity I mentioned above. Lots of fun stuff going on here. You can taste something a little different with each sip. With my crackers and cheese, it did not overpower, and the fruit-forward aspect added nice flavors.
Scintilha is also an incredibly drinkable wine, with medium acidity and low tannins, as is typical of Censault. And being a lightweight, earthy red, it’s beyond versatile. I had a couple glasses that first evening with the snacks but finished the bottle off the next night with my friend David over another of my impromptu meals—red pepper chicken sausage with fresh tomatoes and olive oil – this time on the couch watching David’s cat get stuck in the sleeve of the wine bag and reading poems to each other. Libertines!
Scintilha and the spice from the sausage were an excellent pair. The two danced around in my mouth elevating the heat factor. There was a lot of “mmm, this is good” going on between bites. The earthiness deepened the flavor of the chicken while the light weight matched the tomato salad.
But, if you are looking for a wine for a more deliberate sit-down dinner with friends, don’t let my casual approach lead you away. No. Scintilha could also easily hold up to more contemplated, heavier meals. A beef burger with stinky cheese, veggie lasagna, Portobello risotto, or a roast lamb would be amazing with its earth and fruit. And it’s a perfect wine to bring to someone’s house for dinner when you don’t know what’s on the menu.
Finally, if you are a late-night sweet fiend like me, this is a good accompaniment for dark chocolate under a blanket listening to your favorite shuffle list before bed.
The Last Sip
However you drink Scintilha, try to remember Patricia Boyer-Domergue, pruning vines in the sun, picking the grapes by hand, giving you a piece of herself and her ancient land.
It’s so easy to forget when we’re bustling about, eating dinner standing in the middle of our kitchens in cold New England, February 2018, so far from hot Minervois 2015.