It’s summer in Provence, and it is HOT. The swimming pool and an electric fan are my best friends, and come mealtime, it’s all about cool salads starring some combination of chilled cucumbers, tomatoes, garden lettuces, and just-plucked basil. To ensure refreshment, a bottle of Terrebrune rosé is in the fridge, the ideal match for a summery diet and the perfect antidote to the scorching sun. Its savory, herbal perfume echoes scents wafting in a gentle breeze outside, while the saline finish is an enticing reminder of the Mediterranean waters within view of Terrebrune’s vines.
In 1963, Georges Delille bought what would become Domaine de Terrebrune, a property in Ollioules, just east of Bandol, framed by the Mediterranean and the mountain called Gros-Cerveau (Big Brain), dotted with olive groves and scenic views—an idyllic spot. Mass overhauling and reconstruction of vineyards followed the declaration of A.O.C. Bandol (1941); vignerons were eager to revive the noble Mourvèdre grape. Georges spent ten years just renovating the property, terracing hillsides and replanting vineyards following the advice of Lucien Peyraud. In 1980, his son Reynald joined him, and together they launched their first bottled vintage of Domaine de Terrebrune, which Reynald named in honor of the rich, brown soils they farm.
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.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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