This week’s New York Times magazine featured an interview with that Moses of U.S. specialty importers, Berkeley-based Kermit Lynch — and it’s well worth your time. Lynch was an early advocate of what we would now call terroir wines, but has never been a terroiriste. By this I mean that, so far as I know, he never really tried to articulate precisely what made the wine he stumped for appealing, nor has he ever issued comprehensive, dogmatic statement on terroir as the Wine Spectator’s Matt Kramer has.
Lynch was also one of the first Americans to tramp the backroads of France’s wine country, knocking on doors and tasting in cellars that had never admitted an outsider before. His 1988 book Adventures on the Wine Route is wonderfully entertaining. It was instrumental in shaping my own idea of what constituted quality and proportion in wine and made me deeply skeptical of the alternative view being presented by Robert Parker Jr., then just coming into his own.
A story I enjoy recalling suggests another reason I’m so fond of the book. It concerns being seated next to Prince Philippe Poniatowski of Clos Baudoin (now under the ownership of Francois Chidaine) at a wine-tasting lunch in Cambridge when I was just starting out in wine writing.
Poniatowski was old Polish aristocracy, a distinguished and debonair 70-something, and a reputed war hero. He was sociable enough and his English was impeccable but the prospect of having to converse with him for the duration of the event was daunting. What, I wondered, would we chat about? [Read more…]