Here's a mood: You're a teen out to make some bad decisions with your friends. You're drinking blackberry wine, or blackberry schnapps, or something dark and fruity. You're buzzed on cigs that you don't really know how to smoke, trading them with your best friend, laughing, falling over one another, in that full-on youthful world of your own where everything spins around you like a carnival ride you never want to get off. That is what this red blend, the Le Telquel, reminds me of.
That’s a lot! You might be thinking. But the wine isn’t really, it’s just so eminently drinkable and luscious. It’s the blackberry taste in it that really got me, see—it made me think of tumbling through briars, maybe because you’re making out with someone, maybe because you’re goofing off with your friend in that weird pre-teen way where every interaction could turn vaguely sexual because there are so many haywire emotions. This red is chiefly made of Gamay, but doesn’t smart of it so much thanks to the addition of Grolleau, a fruity, acidic wine often blended with Gamay to make these drink-’em-young French reds, and a bit of Pineau D'Aunis. On the nose, it’s earthy, with dark cherry and tobacco; it smells like your friend’s parents’ basement where you tried something (weed or whiskey or whatever your poison was) for the first time. But on the palate, it’s uplifting, an explosion of those darkly decadent berries, tart and acidic and juicy as all get out, with a lingering kiss of tannin to leave you desperate for more. Despite all of that, it’s most definitely not a heavy red. Light to medium bodied, it’s excellent with a slight chill. I had seen it at the wine store for a long time before eventually buying it, even though it was very highly recommended, and I can't believe it took me so long to get there.
It also took me a very long time to pair it with a book. "What goes with tumbling through (or making out in) bushes like you're a reckless teen?" I wondered. The answer is most definitely Marlena, Julie Buntin's electric sort-of-coming-of-age debut novel that I devoured in two days last summer. Set in a very rural, dead-end town in Michigan, it follows the course of an intoxicating (and toxic) friendship between the narrator, Cat, and the entirely unwholesome girl next door, Marlena. Now 30 years old and living in Brooklyn with a drinking problem and a boyfriend, Cat tells us at the outset that within a year of her meeting Marlena, her friend drowns. The death, and the friendship, have clearly taken an immeasurable toll on her, and we read on to find out how and why. A perfect tale of the thrills and dangers, as well as the heady highs, of an all-encompassing friendship where eventually both parties become bad influences, I couldn't have loved it more. Nothing is more apt than a darkly delicious yet not-heavy Vin de France, the kind of sexy-juicy thing you want to clutch while powering through a story like this. Go get both ASAP.
Book: Marlena, Julie Buntin
Bottle: Le Telquel vin de France; imported by Louis/Dressner; bought at Uva Wines