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Upon first dipping my nose into a glass of this blanc, it became instantly clear that this is unlike any Provençal white I had ever encountered. A delicate aroma of flowers in bloom prefaces its textural fullness—a fleshy complement to the precision and stoniness conferred by this remote terroir. It leaves the palate with a mouthwatering salinity that is all too often lacking in southern whites. The blend features Rolle, Ugni Blanc, Sémillon, and Clairette, fermented and aged in a combination of barriques, demi-muids, and cement cuves.
Roch Sassi of Clos Saint-Joseph (named for his great-grandfather) is the only grower to bottle any wine eked from these incredibly rocky slopes. His wines fall under the Côtes de Provence appellation, even though the much cooler terroir here has little relation to the rest of the AOC. Villars in fact represents an isolated enclave of Côtes de Provence that enjoys a unique microclimate, the dry heat buffered by cold air currents from the surrounding mountains. These conditions allow for full ripening at remarkably low alcohol levels, maintaining lively fruit and bright acidity in the wines.
For the wines that I buy I insist that the winemaker leave them whole, intact. I go into the cellars now and select specific barrels or cuvées, and I request that they be bottled without stripping them with filters or other devices. This means that many of our wines will arrive with a smudge of sediment and will throw a more important deposit as time goes by, It also means the wine will taste better.