Blanc has always been the focus since we began importing Clos Sainte Magdeleine’s wines in the late 1970s, with their fennel- and sea-salt-inflected Cassis setting the standard for Mediterranean whites. But vigneron Jonathan Sack also bottles a Cassis rosé each year, a delicate expression of mainly Grenache and Cinsault that is, sadly, made in tiny quantities. And now, there is a brand new rosé in the Clos Sainte Magdeleine lineup. The Côtes de Provence is sourced from a vineyard in La Ciotat, about halfway between Cassis and Bandol and not far from the Mediterranean coast. Using a similar blend to the Cassis rosé, Sack has crafted what is perhaps the quintessential Provençal refresher—an uplifting nectar of bright citrus, fresh berry fruit, wild herbs, and salty sea air—that is a far cry from the countless technological, mass-marketed examples in production throughout the region. No, Sack’s bears a distinct sense of place, and it's someplace we all want to be: under the sun, by the sea, glass in hand, a bowl of briny olives within reach. Monsieur, a refill, s'il vous plaît!
Cassis is what Kermit calls “an earthly paradise.” The vineyards of Clos Sainte Magdeleine are particularly stunning, jutting out on a private cape to meet majestic limestone cliffs, poised spectacularly above the sparkling, azure Mediterranean. Only a handful of vignerons today are fortunate enough to produce A.O.C. Cassis, and the small quantities available are largely consumed locally with fresh fish—the best way to enjoy them. The Sack-Zafiropulos family has been making wine here for four generations and continues to craft wines of grace and finesse. Their success lies in an uncanny ability to capture nerve and sun-kissed unctuousness in the wines, making them both incredibly food-friendly and delicious entirely on their own.
Perhaps there is no region more closely aligned with the history to Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant than Provence. Provence is where Richard Olney, an American ex-pat and friend of Alice Waters, lived, and introduced Kermit to the great producers of Provence, most importantly Domaine Tempier of Bandol. Kermit also spends upwards of half his year at his home in a small town just outside of Bandol.
Vitis vinifera first arrived in France via Provence, landing in the modern day port city of Marseille in the 6th century BC. The influence of terroir on Provençal wines goes well beyond soil types. The herbs from the pervasive scrubland, often referred to as garrigue, as well as the mistral—a cold, drying wind from the northwest that helps keep the vines free of disease—play a significant role in the final quality of the grapes. Two more elements—the seemingly ever-present sun and cooling saline breezes from the Mediterranean—lend their hand in creating a long growing season that result in grapes that are ripe but with good acidity.
Rosé is arguably the most well known type of wine from Provence, but the red wines, particularly from Bandol, possess a great depth of character and ability to age. The white wines of Cassis and Bandol offer complexity and ideal pairings for the sea-influenced cuisine. Mourvèdre reigns king for red grapes, and similar to the Languedoc and Rhône, Grenache, Cinsault, Marsanne, Clairette, Rolle, Ugni Blanc among many other grape varieties are planted.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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