If you ever want to show someone what a red wine from the southern Rhône tastes like, this is the first bottle you should open. Each year, Kermit and Anthony travel to a cave cooperative outside of Avignon to sample two dozen tanks and craft an unfiltered blend that best represents that vintage in the southern Rhône. Packed with flavors of black olives, herbs, and blackberries, this custom bottling—which we have imported for more than three decades—is far more complex and refined than you might expect given the price. Take the tannin, to start. It is here in perfect measure, leaving you with a red that has some grip and spine, but is at the same time supremely approachable. Next, feel the generous acidity on your tongue. The versatility of this acid is, in large part, what makes this bottling such an ideal weeknight red. Open it on Tuesday, and it’s perfect with some simple pasta. Didn’t finish it in one night? Pour it again on Wednesday with a grilled chicken breast or burger. This wine is what the southern Rhône is all about.
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.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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