A great read: Kermit Lynch, ‘Adventures on the Wine Route’

It’s been more than a quarter-century since Kermit Lynch wrote “Adventures on a Wine Route.” But this masterwork is dated only in the sense that many of its fascinating subjects have since slipped the surly bonds of Earth.

Lynch, blessedly, is still alive and well, dispensing wisdom and lovely wines from his Berkeley store. “Adventures” chronicles his early travels as an aspiring wine importer.

As those who have sampled his imports know, Lynch likes esoteric wines. So it’s no surprise that he’s given to high-culture allusions.

He frames an analogy of two Rhones in Nietzschian terms: Hermitage wines are Apollonian, harmonious, with more architectural and formal beauty, while Cote Rotie is Dionysian, more immediate, more passionate than cerebral. In one of the first explanations of something that avid travelers have come to know, he explains why wines taste better at their place of origin: “like [hearing] Debussy on a rainy night in Paris. The wine is not different, you are.”

And he’s quite opinionated, of course. Macon should never be more than 12-percent alcohol; new oak mutes the expression of the Rhone grapes; cabernet flavors tend to dominate environmental factors, while syrah, pinot and mourvedre express environmental factors.

But he hardly lacks in colorful metaphors, usually involving women. “Loving Chablis is like falling in love with a frigid floozy,” he writes. Beaujolais “should not be a civilized society lady; it is the one-night stand of wines.”

Even with all of Lynch’s wit and wisdom, the best part of this book is the people and places he encountered (some captured in simply amazing black-and-white photos).

The era might be gone, but these icons, and many of the wines they made, spring to life on these pages.

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