Fondreche Nature Rouge and 69 Love Songs
Feeling melancholy never sounded so lovely and jubilant as it does on “69 Love Songs” (Volume One) by The Magnetic Fields. This ragtag group of musicians, led by creative genius Stephin Merritt, are masters of weaving musical styles and embellishing dark emotions to craft something that is uniquely their own.
The Fondreche Nature Rouge is equally distinct and complex. It’s raw with no added sulphites, plump, juicy and sexy. It’s brooding and delicious, fitting for this music that’s both moody and enchanting. The color is deep purple, the bouquet is filled with fresh plum and blackberry, its texture is chewy and the flavor is delectable. A few sips in has you feeling low-key warm and sultry, just like Merritt’s signature baritone vocals.
“69 Love Songs” opens with “Absolutely Cuckoo”, a great introduction to the record and the style of Magnetic Fields in just a minute and a half. It’s self aware, self deprecating and wears its heart on its sleeve, with Merritt giving fair warning to any potential love interest not to get too involved. At the same time, it’s full of irony and dark comedy with chipper ukelele and upbeat, though classically deep vocals.
This record, like the Fondreche Nature Rouge, is more stripped down compared to others from Merritt that explore the bounds of electronic music. It’s beautiful in its instrumentation and emotional expression. It’s also quirky and weird. It speaks to the character that winemaker Sébastien Vincenti created in this wine: it’s sturdy with a lush and structured body brimming with rich, dark fruit but also fresh, easy to drink and natural with no added preservatives or sulphites. Vincenti, whose mother owns the property as of 1993, is a leader of the low-intervention quality movement in the Ventoux region in southeastern France. His wine has the classic makeup and weight of a Southern French red blend that stands on its own legs.
The combination of beauty and sorrow on “All My Little Words” is as impactful and effective as the blending of grenache, syrah, mourvedre and cinsault in the Fondreche Nature Rouge. Each varietal has a role - the bright and fruity grenache that freshens; the tannic, savory, spicy syrah that anchors; the mourvedre adding depth and black fruit and the light cinsault that elevates the blend, keeping it all in balance. “All My Little Words” sung by MF collaborator LD Beghtol with backing vocals from Shirley Simms supports defeated lyrics with gorgeous strings, gentle banjo and choir-like harmonies.
There are so many gems on this musical odyssey, and we’re just talking about part one of a three part epic. “I Don’t Want to Get Over You” is one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s beautiful. It’s painful. It sounds exactly how I’d feel if I broke up with the love of my life. Oh, how wonderful it is to wallow in the exquisite agony.
Some of the highlights on part one are as follows: “Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side” serves up major Lou Reed vibes with its situational, character naming storytelling and New York beatnik folksy sound. Merritt is the best at sugar-coated passive aggressiveness, like on hilariously titled and self-explanatory “The Cactus Where Your Heart Should Be” and “My Sentimental Melody” with lyrics that proclaim “I live on the blue planet/ That I saw in your eyes/ But now I can't stay/ Knowing it's made/ Of beautiful lies.”
“I Think I Need A New Heart” is the Spanish-style dance number about the fear of commitment. Then you have the amazing, delicate and earnest “The Book of Love”, about how love in theory is “dumb” and “boring” but in practice it’s vital and meaningful. “Sweet Lovin’ Man” has a Country slant sung by Claudia Gonson, with the welcomed lady’s perspective on the elusive, well, sweet and loving man. It’s a dynamic record indeed for an equally dynamic wine.
“69 Love Songs” and Fondreche Nature Rouge aren’t flashy and they don’t need to be. They are honest, pure expressions of love & heartbreak and terroir, respectively. The result is both wine and music to savor and get wrapped up in, like hunkering down on a stormy day.