In his book Reading Between the Wines, importer Terry Theise lists deliciousness as one of the nine aspects of flavor that matter most. "Deliciousness ignites something in us that delights at the scent of pleasure," he writes. I'll take a delicious wine over an interesting one any day of the week, and describing a wine as such translates far better than a queue of seemingly random descriptors that too often sound unpalatable and affected. Revelatory deliciousness, however, is that moment when the sensual desires are both peaked and sated, while simultaneously producing an offspring: inspiration.
One of my earliest memories of RD came to me in the sixth or seventh grade at a Friday night sleepover. My friend was the daughter of a famously deceased Southern rock star, and staying at her house always meant learning something new, usually about boys or alcohol. It was in her hot tub, playing spin-the-bottle, that I had my first French kiss, supplied by a well-matched skinny middle-schooler who instructed me to "spit your gum out." That was neither a delicious nor poetic experience, but on another visit, sans boys, I discovered mushrooms. The white button kind.
I watched as my friend prepared a favorite late night snack that soon became one of my own. She sliced the mushrooms while a sauté pan heated up and melted half a stick of butter. Then, she added the shrooms to the pan, plus salt and pepper. That was it. We ate them with spoons from a bowl, the fungi as much a vehicle for the dairy as the actual centerpiece. And I fucking loved it. The flavors were simple and two-note, which is one note more than I'd previously experienced with what were probably the only culinary mushrooms available in 1980s North Florida. They were subtly earthy, rich with butter flavor, a touch spicy from the deep black pepper tones, mouth-coating and slightly chewy. I was already doing some family cooking at home by then, recipes found by my mother and family-approved, like lasagna and spaghetti with homemade meat sauce. But this was a dish I discovered on my own as an independent out in the world. It scratched a curiosity about the possibilities outside the confines of my own family and stoked a hunger for new flavors. I made that dish many times over, until finally the richness became too rich and I grew bored with the limited dynamics.
Fast forward 30 years to my recent discovery of the Bastide du Claux 'Malacare' 2014, from France's Luberon region in the southern reaches of the Rhône Valley, and a different sort of revelatory deliciousness.
Bastide du Claux 'Malacare' 2014 Luberon Rouge
There is no evidence of butter or mushrooms in this wine, and no richness that grab the senses with a firm handshake that the previous story describes. In complete contrast, this syrah dominate blend from Luberon is fresh, soft on the palate and easy to drink without food. It is however, damn delicious, and for me, it was also revelatory.
It was my first wine after a ten-day stretch of sobriety, including zero processed sugar and a committed diet of raw garlic. Long before that monastic practice, my palate had been failing me for some time. Wines I knew to be spectacular disappointed me with short, metallic finishes while my friends who were trying them for the first time squirmed in their seats with delight. Hello mono my old friend. He's still lingering four months later, smothering my taste buds and my spirit. Then this guy came along and hope was restored. It was like the first time all over again. Here, in this glass, is the secret to living! Oh wine, how I love thee!
From Bastide de Claux importer Neal Rosenthal, I learned that it's made by Sylvain Morey, son of Burgundy producer Jean-Marc Morey in Chassagne-Montrachet. Sylvain took what he'd learned working with pinot noir and chardonnay alongside his father and applied a similar approach to making Rhône wines from small, old vine parcels that have not been machine harvested and cultivated to produce quantity-driven wines. According to the website, the 2014 Malacare is made with 60% syrah, 25% grenache and about 10% of carignan, which doesn't quite add up, but we get the gist of it. It was fermented with native yeasts and aged in large oak barrels and concrete tanks, both of which lend a hand in the wine's freshness. Bright red berry fruits and medium plus acidity balance well with the gentle tannins and lower alcohol, around 13%, and the finish was long and juicy.
I can't promise it will do the same for you. In so many ways wine is a personal experience, like reading a poem or listening to a song. But I can tell you the Bastide du Claux 'Malacare' 2014, if not a full-on RD trip for you too, certainly rates high on the deliciousness scale.