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Paris Diary: Kermit Lynch at Lunch

Kermit1.jpgWhen the history of French winemaking is written, there will be more than a footnote dedicated to American importers, none of whom has been more important than Berkeley’s Kermit Lynch. Beginning in 1972 he has imported wine into the U.S. from France, but not just any wine: wine that he has tasted in situ, liked, shipped in refrigerated containers, and most importantly, insisted be made the traditional way — in old oak foudres without fining and filtration. He bucked a trend in which young winemakers, university-educated in what was then deemed modern and correct, insisted that age-old practices be thrown over in favor of new technological solutions. Insecure fathers listened to their school-taught sons, until Kermit arrived to set things right. At first, Lynch’s winemakers made a special cuvée Kermit, but when they saw that it was good, they reverted to the old ways for all of their production. Slowly, in a process that is still ongoing, the world’s vignerons began to follow.

Anyways, the distinguished looking fellow in the picture above was sitting at the lunchtime communal table across from us at high-end butcher Hugo Desnoyer, and when I overheard in his party’s conversation that he was in the wine import business, I asked him the name of his company. He said Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. I inquired if he enjoyed working with Lynch, whose book I had read. He replied that he was Kermit Lynch. Much merriment.

Addendum: Hugo Desnoyer’s butchery is part of a return in France to more natural — and infinitely more tasty, and therefore satistying — food. Lunch at one of the three tables in his shop is an opportunity to taste beef the way it used to be, and might one day be again, and meet some interesting people at the table d’hôte:

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