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Enjoying fine wine is a lifelong learning pursuit

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Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

One of the most telling early experiences in my personal discovery of wine came neither in a cool wine cellar nor at a wine-tasting. Rather, it came in the late 1980s reading a book.

Kermit Lynch's “Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer's Tour of France” (North Point Press, 1988) fired my imagination to learn about and perhaps even visit independent producers living amidst the French vineyards. It also inspired abiding curiosity about that quintessentially French concept — terroir.

Now, Lynch has published a 25th-anniversary edition. It includes a new epilogue, updated stories about the winemakers and Lynch's 25 most memorable wines. You can order a signed copy of the book for $23 until Nov. 9 and save $7 off the regular price at www.kermitlynch.com.

Lynch writes evocatively of the romance and pleasures, as well as the frustrations and difficulties, of traveling France's back roads as a professional wine buyer. In rereading my original dog-eared copy, his description of arriving in southern France still has a magical effect:

“As one enters Provence ... the road passes through a gorge that pinches right up to the shoulder of the autoroute, then opens out upon a vast, vine-covered plain. The effect is emotionally exhilarating, like the untying of a mental knot, a release and a shock of open space within that mirrors the widening landscape without. Shortly afterward, a large road sign announces: Vous êtes en Provence.”

Brilliant Provence sunshine and smells of wild lavender and rosemary practically beckon from the page. Other chapters provide beguiling glimpses of winemakers, culture and landscapes in Burgundy, the Loire Valley, Languedoc, Bordeaux and the southern and northern Rhône Valley.

Most importantly, the book inspires a desire to uncork wines from the marvelous producers that Lynch profiles so intriguingly. For me, tasting and sharing wines from his producers over the years has resulted in much pleasure, lasting friendships and insights into the elusive notion of terroir.

Today, Lynch still imports many of the passionate producers originally featured. Domaine Tempier produces earthy, meaty, yet elegant mourvèdre-based wines from Bandol near the Mediterranean Sea. Not far inland, the Brunier's Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe continues producing rich, profoundly aromatic red blends and equally intriguing white blends in and around Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

In the northern Rhône, three generations of the Clape family turn out beautifully balanced syrah-based reds in Cornas. A little farther north in Burgundy, Aubert de Villaine continues his vision of producing terrific aligoté-based white wines, while Domaine Raveneau continues producing amazingly pure and steely gems in Chablis.

Prices have risen along with the producers' fame, not an unreasonable development given the quality and simple inflation. But take heart. The wine-loving Lynch still imports lesser-known producers with plenty to offer at relatively lower prices. Try:

The 2012 Domaine du Salvard Cheverny, France (Luxury 48141; $14.99) comes from vines growing just east of Tours in the Loire Valley. The fifth-generation Delaille family now makes this tasty white from sauvignon blanc blended with a healthy dose of chardonnay.

Classic aromas of grapefruit and quince leap from the glass. Taut, crisp citrus and guava flavors layer with refreshing acidity. A touch of creaminess adds depth to the beautifully balanced dry finish. Pair with mussels steamed in white wine, butter and shallots. Highly recommended.

The 2011 Domaine Ostertag Les Vieilles Vignes de Sylvaner, Alsace, France (Luxury 48244; $22.99; available at the Waterworks and Cranberry Mall stores only) comes from the iconoclastic André Ostertag. His Sylvaner vines average 40 years old and grow in clay, gravel and granite.

The resulting wine delivers rich depth of fruit with terrific balance. The golden color unfolds grapefruit, honey and floral aromas. Ripe peach and citrus flavors carry through the dry finish. Pair with seafood crepes. Highly recommended.

The 2010 Domaine Maestracci E Prove, Corse Calvi, France (Luxury 48071; $19.99) comes from an exotic blend of niellucciu, grenache, sciacarellu and syrah grapes grown on a hot plateau on the island of Corsica. Winemaker Michel Raoust balances dark, fruity freshness with earthy complexity for a perfect complement to roasted lamb with garlic. Highly recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at ddesimone@tribweb.com.

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