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Wine Importers to Rely On: Kermit Lynch (Specialty: France)

22 May

by Sharon Kapnick       The first in a series of posts about importers to rely on.

Many studies indicate that wine in moderation is good for us, but many of us aren’t sure which wines—especially imported wines—are good. When in doubt, I call upon an easy way to deal with the overwhelming options: I look for wines from importers I’ve come to trust.

These savvy importers help you make smart choices. They’ve done the swirling and the sniffing, the sipping and the spitting, the sleuthing and the schlepping. All you have to do is look for their name on the back of the bottle.

Kermit Lynch of Kermit Lynch Selections (www.kermitlynch.com) is a superstar among importers and a role model for those who followed in his path. His influence has been monumental.

In 1972, he opened a wine shop near Berkeley, California. At the time there was a wine recession, and he was able to scoop up great bargains. “Low prices on great wines,” he wrote, “began to attract customers to my hole-in-the-wall shop.” Lynch quickly became enamored of French wines and soon began importing them. He boldly filled his store—right in the middle of California wine country—with Burgundies and little-known gems from little-known regions in France.

Lynch is a self-described “specialist in off-the-beaten-path wines.” Some have become esteemed wines in the U.S., including Bandol’s Domaine Tempier, Alsace’s Domaine Zind-Humbrecht and Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. The pioneering Lynch insisted on nonfiltered wines and refrigerated containers for shipping at a time when such practices were uncommon. In the course of all this, he introduced new French grapes to California winemakers, who proceeded to plant them.

In addition to being a retailer and an importer, Lynch is an award-winning author. In 2000 he received the James Beard Foundation Wine Professional of the Year Award and in 2005 the French government dubbed him a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.

Lynch’s friend Alice Waters, who revolutionized American cuisine via her Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, touts him as “the revolutionary wine merchant who, almost single-handedly, has brought about a new understanding of wine as a unique expression of land, tradition and people.” Lynch’s name on a label is a very, very good thing.

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