Baby Jesus in Velvet Underwear

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  • Denis Alary

“To be an inspired wine taster, you must be capable of experiencing synesthesia. “Ça descend la gorge comme le bebé Jesu en culottes de velours,” the French say. “It goes down the throat like the baby Jesus in velvet underwear.” A great terroir wine you can visualize as possessing a center, a core; I sometimes visualize terroir wines as planetary systems, with the minerals exerting the gravitational pull of the sun. Or, I see the minerals as the backbone, the skeleton of the wine, that which gives the wine stability and persistence. The various nuances of flavor radiate out from this center, as do the symmetric ripples in a pond”.

I'm not in the habit of quoting the agreeably iconoclastic Californian winemaker Randall Grahm too much, but this paragraph from a talk he gave entitled “The Phenomenology of Terroir” seemed appropriate to the first time I tasted Denis Alary's Domaine Alary La Chevre d'Or, Cotes du Rhone 2006.
In fact, it's appropriate to the first time I sniffed the cork I had pulled from the bottle, even before I poured a drop. Even the cork promised something elusive, idiosyncratic, wild and natural. When I tasted it, yes, it was baby Jesus in velvet underwear sliding down the throat: magic!
Blending Clairette, Bourbelenc, Rousanne and Viognier, M. Alary has fashioned a wine that bewitches with every sniff and taste. This fermented grape juice stopped me in my tracks, no less: a seismic wine.
Tyrrell and Company of Sallins import the wine, and you can find it in The Vineyard, Galway; McHugh's of Kilbarrack, and Vanilla Grape, Kenmare, where it should cost you a few cent more than €14. At that price, it is a steal.