Kermit and I arrived at the Terres d’Avignon cave co-op in early July last year to blend the 2016 vintage of our Côtes du Rhône. We tasted our way through twenty-one tanks of various capacities, each holding different blends of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault sourced from small farmers in the surrounding hills. The wines tasted generous, focused, and complete, showing great aromatic typicity in the form of sun-kissed blackberry, black olive, and plenty of spicy garrigue herbs like rosemary and thyme. In our final blend, we sought to marry the element of nectarous fruit that invites carefree gulping with a touch of depth and slight grip that will come in handy at table. Just arrived in our shop, here are the fruits of that day’s labor.
Over forty years of doing business in France and Italy have given Kermit Lynch a level of expertise that few in the wine industry can boast. Countless hours with growers in some of the most famous vineyards and cellars of Europe have offered more than just a casual look at what it takes to be a great grower, let alone a great winemaker. Long-term relationships with vignerons in every major wine growing region offer a tremendous array of opportunities. Every year, Kermit enjoys a creative collaboration with some growers to find the best of their selections. Together, they work towards creating a final blend that showcases the region in all its glory at a price point that is difficult to match.
The southern Rhône valley is Grenache country. It’s also known for its stones. With a viticulture history dating back well before the Popes arrived in the 12th century and one of France’s oldest appellations d'origine contrôlée, Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe, the southern Rhône is unquestionably one of France’s best known and premier winegrowing regions. The wines have the pedigree and age-worthiness of Burgundy and Bordeaux, but with a rustic, Mediterranean character. Like most wines from southern France, the reds, whites, and rosés are blends. Filling out the Grenache for the reds and rosés, you’ll often find Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault. The common white grape varieties are Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Viognier, Roussane, and Marsanne among others. From the alluvial riverbed stones found in Lirac, Tavel, and Châteauneuf to the limestone cliffs of the Dentelles de Montmirail that influence Beaumes-de-Venise (where you’ll find excellent Muscat), Vacqueyras, and Gigondas, great terroir abounds.
Kermit’s entrance in the region came in the mid 1970s on his first trip with Richard Olney, an American ex-pat and friend of Alice Waters. On that trip, Richard introduced Kermit to the Brunier family of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. Soon after, Kermit began importing the Brunier’s wines—their Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau” bottling remains a staple of our portfolio today. In the late 1990s Kermit teamed up with the Brunier family to purchase the famed Gigondas estate, Domaine Les Pallières. More than 40 years later, we now import wines from fifteen southern Rhône domaines spanning the entire area of the region.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
Inspiring Thirst, page 171
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