Thirty years after writing his Baedeker, Lynch is still updating it. piedmont: “In truffle season there is no more delicious place. Look for old bottles of Barolo—the quality is quite high.” Alsace: “The old villages are beautiful, and you’ll be welcomed
of façades” and a bastion of smug corporate winemaking. At the time that attitude was almost shocking, but in this, as in many other matters, Lynch seems to have been way ahead of the curve. The younger generation of sommeliers and wine bloggers tend to think of Bordeaux as their grandfather’s wine. Burgundy, the Loire, and the northern Rhône have become much more fashionable.
Lynch’s stated objective was diversity. He looked for wines that tasted specifically of a certain place and deplored the tendency toward homogenization of taste. He was fighting on two fronts, trying to persuade French winemakers to respect their traditions and battling the rising power of American critics, who, he believed, judged all wines on the basis of their power and size. During my visit to Le Beausset, he railed against the tendency of critics like Robert parker to award scores that favored power and ripeness over delicacy and finesse.
When he wrote Adventures he seemed, like Orwell in Spain, to be fighting for a lost cause, but the case can be made that his side is winning. “I’m optimistic,” he told me recently. “There are a lot of good wines out there, and a part of the wine market demands wines with character. And the availability of artisanal wines has never been greater, which makes me happy.” But his Celtic sense of gloom kicks in almost immediately: “Billionaire buyers of grand cru vineyards in Burgundy, enologists taking over the winemaking decisions, designer wines—trends like that, well, of course they don’t cheer my heart.”
Lynch is spending more time these days on his music and a novel in progress, but he’s still searching for epiphanies in the glass—european treasures for his American customers. (His novel is about…a wine importer.) Not long ago he e-mailed me to say that he had found yet another good one, in northeastern Italy: “I’ve been going to Friuli since 1977, and dreamed of what those whites could be if only they were not so technological. Recently I found an incredible producer, Vignai da Duline, who breaks all the laws: native yeasts, malolactic fermentation completed, aged in wood but not new wood. The way all whites used to be made.”
He recently tasted another white made in similar fashion that blew his mind, near his home in Bandol. “It was a lovely wine, easy to swallow, no sign of oxidation. It was a 1952. A 65-year-old Bandol blanc.” I like to picture some lucky drinker encountering the current vintage of that low-tech, old-school Vignai da Duline 65 years from now and being similarly impressed. Though it’s hard to imagine any single individual, now or in that distant future, having such an impact on the drinking habits of his generation as Lynch has had on his.