Picture yourself as a wine merchant in Berkeley, California in the 1970s. This small town on the east side of San Francisco Bay was the center of the “Flower Power” movement in 1969.
In 1971, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley revolutionized the way people viewed food by focusing on local ingredients. And similarly, wine merchant Kermit Lynch helped introduce the American palate to European wine.
Kermit Lynch: A pioneer in buying wine
In Adventures on the Wine Route: Tour de France of a wine buyer, Kermit Lynch recounts her many experiences visiting small European family cellars during the 1970s and 1980s.
When he established his wine store in Berkeley in 1972, he sold local wine and purchased imported wine from distributors. Yet he dreamed of one day buying wine directly from classic European winemakers.
In 1973, Mr. Lynch was able to participate in a shopping trip to Burgundy, France. On this first trip, Mr. Lynch visited a variety of small family vineyards. He describes each owner as being more eccentric than the next.
Along with the colorful and bizarre experiments, Mr. Lynch discovered some excellent wines. Excited by the possibilities, Mr. Lynch became a wine buyer in addition to maintaining his Berkeley store.
The life of a wine buyer
Mr. Lynch reveals that people often think he has a very glamorous life. They fantasize that he always travels, tastes top quality wines and dines in the best European restaurants.
While there is a lot of travel and wine tasting, the job of a wine buyer, says Lynch, is quite exhausting.
As a young wine buyer, he took the constant journey in stride. At that time, he had to fly from San Francisco to New York, then take another plane to Paris.
Depending on the specifics of his trip, he then drove several hours to the Loire Valley, the Rhone Valley, Provence, Bandol or Burgundy.
On his next trips he would also expand his visits to Italy. The goal of each trip was to find the best producers and bring their best wine into his shop.
Readers: Visit the “Old World” without leaving home
Very few writers possess the ability to vividly recreate the personalities of small producers and winegrowers, and the villages in which they live, like Mr. Lynch.
Through his eyes, readers can vicariously visit a family in a small French village and break bread with them at their lunch table. And then after lunch, go down to their cellar and taste the wine still aging in barrels.
More than thirty years have passed since Mr. Lynch first wrote this book. Yet those active in the wine business today will agree that while business models may have changed, producers and their wineries have not.
For wine students and wine lovers alike, this is a timeless “must-have” book for observing all the different factors that come into play in the process of wine production and bringing it to market. And for those who enjoy wheelchair travel, this book offers a colorful take on small town European life.