Visit Venice

by Kermit Lynch

An importer of Italian wines, I have now and again found myself on the Italian wine route in need of some shut-eye. I try to pick nice places to relax instead of the more convenient autostrada hotels. Quality of life, that’s my motto. Occasionally I’ll wind up in Venice, a rather picturesque site if a little worse for wear and tear in certain quarters—evidently the sea is lapping away at its very foundations.

© Kermit Lynch

Heed my advice: my favorite visits to Venice have coincided with dreadful weather. One winter the lagoon was frozen, believe it or not, and the temperature enough below to freeze one’s nose off—good-bye, wine-tasting career! However, it was fabulous, because two pals and I had Venice almost to ourselves: empty canals, streets, hotels, and at one of Venice’s impossible-to-get-a-table restaurants, we were the only diners.

Then this past October, my wife and I encountered rain and high tides that flooded much of the town. It was still crowded, but bearable, everyone by necessity wearing knee-high rubber or plastic boots. Along with the art and scenery, we discovered a thriving food and wine scene. In case you go, that’s why I’m writing about it.

Most tourist-ridden sites worldwide are now geared toward the low airfare/tour bus/cruise ship crowds. Crowds, as in crowded. You walk the street one slow-motion step at a time, and even that is jarringly halted, because half the mob is stopping every two steps to take a selfie.

Hey, Mom, it’s me on the Rialto Bridge!

Oops, sorry, Mom, the press of the mob just pushed me over the railing.

© Kermit Lynch

The quality of the food sinks to mediocre and worse. The cooks must be thinking that they’ll never see a customer again, so why take any pains. Near Bandol, where Gail and I live several months of the year, we always cook at home now, because there is not one single restaurant we want to go back to. I had a terrible visit to Rome recently, a place I dearly loved: streets mobbed, tourists eating cheap, restaurants with no soul. And the Amalfi Coast. Yikes. Good luck. Best go in the winter, because the summer is torture despite the glorious landscape. Traffic jammed for miles, tourism become their sole income—bah, humbug!

But that’s not all. Cheap travel is great for égalité, but the result is the destruction of everything that attracts us in the first place, including the local cuisine. When égalité means mediocrity for one/mediocrity for all . . . well, there must be a better way.

Normally I explore and eat around a lot, but I liked a couple of restaurants in Venice so much, I would advise you to return again and again.

Trattoria Antiche Carampane is so off the beaten track, I almost gave up. I walked using Google Maps. Venetian alleys and streets make Google a blithering idiot. Countless times I found myself going in circles—swearing in circles, too.

It was worth it! Service with a smile, interesting collection of diners, unpretentious setting, superb selection of northern Italian whites (including Duline’s Malvasia Istriana), one delicious platter after another, mostly seafood, all local. They passed out a free starter, a paper cone filled with peanut-sized crispy fried shrimps, perfectly cooked. Every note seemed to hit just the right pitch. I wish I lived next door.

© Gail Skoff

My second fave rave: Alle Testiere on Calle del Mondo Novo. I’m sorry, but you can’t imagine how good warm, grilled white polenta tastes next to a cool ball of the best, least creamy baccalà of my life (baccalà is Italy’s brandade de morue). It is so delicious you might order it as your second and third courses, too, because when your plate is empty, you’ll experience a feeling akin to heartbreak. Luca is the perfect host and also author of the short, gem-filled wine list. When the lagoon was frozen, he’s the one who served me and my pals Duline’s Pinot Grigio—rare, expensive, fairly priced, hard to beat. Thank you, Luca, for that first, startling taste. At Testiere you should order both the cheese and the dessert courses, because they’re so good.

Pardon the digression, but I am convinced that Italian cheeses are now better, generally, than French. Same with charcuterie. The French and their bureaucratic fervor have dulled down both, waving the health flag as justification. Yes, both cheese and charcuterie are safely sterile nowadays, and (is it a coincidence?) produced by factories instead of small farmers. When it comes to food and wine—sorry, Big Brother—artisanal wins, and I’ll bet it is better for us, too.

Back to Luca at Alle Testiere—he gave me the address of a teensy wine bar near the Venice market. “Go to Al Merca,” he said. “Their wines by the glass are beautifully selected. I don’t know how they come up with them.” They also have delicious Venetian-style sandwiches. Alert: no chairs, no tables, no roof. I went three times, and now it’s my favorite Venetian snack bar.

Remember, seek out the periods when Venice weather is inclement and make sure it is not a school vacation week in Europe before making your plans. And, oh yes, reserve those restaurant tables way in advance.

A Call to Arms: Rosé All Year

by Anthony Lynch

American wine drinkers have come a long way in the past forty years. It may be difficult to recall—many of us were not even born, and perhaps we subconsciously blocked this dark age from our memories—but there was once a time, in this dearly beloved country of ours, when the average consumer would turn his nose up at the idea of drinking a rosé. Not macho, some said. And that’s not all: it took many years for us to embrace the virtues of good Beaujolais, or to even acknowledge anything other than a Bordeaux or a Burgundy—let alone an oxidative Jura Savagnin.

Progress is in our country’s DNA, and we cannot keep living in the past. That’s right: the time has come for us, as a nation, to start drinking rosé year-round. Our friends in Bandol would scoff at the idea of confining the most versatile and quaffable of wines to the summer months, and rightly so. Why deprive oneself of what is undoubtedly among life’s greatest pleasures?

We’ve put together a couple samplers for you as a reminder that rosé season is as perennial as evergreens and San Francisco fog. So in the name of progress, refreshment, and of course, joy…we urge you to heed this call to arms, by raising your glass of rosé to the sky and joining us in our year-long quest for pleasure, no matter what color it may come in.

January Newsletter: Surrounding the Alps, Rhône, and An Epic Vouvray

The January Newsletter is now available.

Click here to download the pdf.

Highlights from this month’s newsletter…



mountain SAMPLER >

by Anthony Lynch

Today we visit the Alps to discover a fascinating tradition of viticulture and winemaking. Grape growing has long held a sacred place in these mountain cultures, often as a necessary means of sustenance, since little else will grow in the poor, rocky soils that dominate. Beyond providing a livelihood to Alpine farmers, the wines in this sampler—produced along the rim of the French and Italian Alps—demonstrate that these terroirs, defined by high altitude and steep, rugged slopes, are capable of yielding remarkable wines of unique character.

Conditions are extreme: winters are harsh, summers can be very dry, and the intense daytime sun is matched only by often-frigid nighttime temperatures. Given the potential for violent storms, grape growers—as well as vines themselves—must be cold-hardy and resilient.

What does an Alpine wine taste like? This sampler will offer you an idea via whites and reds from Savoie, Valle d’Aosta, and Alto Adige. Expect vibrant acidities, vivid aromatics, a certain “mountain structure,” and minerals galore. Enjoy a discount on this sampler and savor your journey through these breathtaking mountains.

per bottle

2014 Chignin Blanc • A. & M. Quenard


2013 Grüner Veltliner • Manni Nössing


2014 Valle d’Aosta Fumin • Château Feuillet


2009 Alto Adige “Iugum” • Peter Dipoli


Normally $133.00

Special Sampler Price


(a 20% discount)


Manni Nössing’s Alpine vineyards in Bressanone, Alto Adige               © Gail Skoff


by Anthony Lynch


The Brunier brothers bottle this white Châteauneuf as a more accessible alternative to the exalted La Crau bottling. La Roquète is a completely different terroir—its sandy soils lend a softer edge to the Clairette, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne that make up the blend. Suggestive of molten rocks with a trace of honey and wildflowers, it can age but really aims to please in its tender youth.

$49.00 per bottle $529.20 per case


Serge Férigoule of Sang des Cailloux is the quintessential Provençal vigneron: his jovial, singing accent; generous, laid-back disposition; and silver handlebar mustache could come right out of a Marcel Pagnol film. His wines, accordingly, are a picture-perfect depiction of his home region, loaded with aromas of Provence and plenty of southern soul. This old-vines bottling is all about smoky garrigue, dense black fruit, taut leather, chewy tannins, and stones. It will provide an authentic Vacqueyras experience for many years.

$53.00 per bottle $572.40 per case


A few words from vigneron Louis Barruol on the lieu-dit Nève:

Nève is a fantastic, albeit little-known, terroir of Côte Rôtie. Located in the north of Ampuis on the lower part of the slope, its soils consist of decomposed red schist. It has an extraordinary capacity to display an intensely seductive nose—complex and full of refinement. There is always an ethereal quality.

Louis works exclusively with Serine, the ancient clone of Syrah known for low yields and a lovely aroma of violets. It ferments wild, stems and all, then the wine ages fifteen months in neutral barrels before an unfined and unfiltered bottling. The finesse here, along with its smoky, peppery, floral nuances, will resonate strongly with enthusiasts of traditionally crafted northern Rhône Syrahs.

$75.00 per bottle $810.00 per case


by Dixon Brooke




Kermit and I have had many discussions about the current state of affairs in Vouvray. Where are all the great wines? This once-thriving region of scores of masterful vintners seems very quiet these days. One wine stands pretty tall and proud to us: the Champalou family’s single-vineyard masterpiece, Le Portail. Planted on a chalk plateau right outside of their home and winery, the vines are pampered daily. The wine is aged in older demi-muids, does its malolactic fermentation, and is bottled without filtration. Many used to be made this way; almost none are today. This dry Chenin Blanc combines unctuous texture with chalky minerality and nervy acidity to create one hell of a classy package. Delicious now, it will continue to provide pleasure for more than a decade.

$38.00 per bottle $410.40 per case


Happy Birthday to Domaine Tempier’s Lulu Peyraud!


From Kermit

    Happy birthday dear Lulu, happy birthday to you. Ninety-eight years young and still warming so many of our hearts with the twinkle in your eyes—I wonder if you know how influential your positive attitude is to us lucky enough to have encountered you on our travels along life’s sometimes rocky road. You are to some, an educator, and your class is titled How To Enjoy Life. Well, I wonder, could there be any lesson more important than that? A big hug from me, Gail, Anthony, Marley, and all the staff at KLWM.
    AND YOU, dear staff, dear clients, should you have some birthday thoughts or memories for Domaine Tempier’s Lulu Peyraud, please, please, pretty please, send them along to us in English or French. We’ll translate if necessary and post them and of course make sure Lulu receives them. Simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post.
    And any of you with a bottle of Domaine Tempier around the house, Dec. 11 is a good day for pulling a cork and raising your glass to the unforgettable, irresistible, irrepressible Lulu Peyraud.

Here today, Morgon Tomorrow

by Anthony Lynch


An expedition to the Beaujolais last summer found the KLWM gang in fine form. Not only were the vignerons excited about the grand potential of the upcoming 2015 harvest, but also they reveled in the outcome of their 2014s, a vintage that began with some question marks but has finally yielded one delicious answer. Many among them described the resulting wines as très Beaujolais: that is, dominated by buoyant aromas of bright fruit, agile on the palate, and eminently drinkable. This month we feature three new arrivals from two of Morgon’s most reputable producers—be sure to satisfy your deepest Beaujolais desires before we are all sold out.


P’tit Max, as he is known, works some of Morgon’s highest-altitude vineyards, so much so that he harvests almost two weeks later than the average for the appellation. The word ethereal always comes to mind when tasting his wines, perhaps due to the cool microclimate that ensures lifting acidity year after year. He is also blessed with some very old vines, many of which are more than 120 years old. This age may explain the wine’s impressive structure, a granite constitution that provides a foundation for all the lively fruit mentioned above. It finishes with a mouthful of spices and a touch of funk—the kind that will make you want to get up and dance like James Brown.

$33.00 per bottle $356.40 per case

2014 MORGON • M. & C. LAPIERRE >

Mathieu Lapierre’s Morgon is just in! Beaujolais addicts around the country can breathe a collective sigh of relief—just call the store today to get your fix. Each vial contains a healthy dose of the finest fermented Gamay from the decomposed granite soils of Morgon. Our staff found the 2014 especially slippery, and by that I mean it has a tendency to slide right down your gullet no matter how hard you try to stop it. Silky and perfumed, with no rough edges, this is dangerously swallowable.

$34.00 per bottle $367.20 per case

2014 MORGON “marcel LAPIERRE”
m. & C. lapierre >

From vines over one hundred years old on Morgon’s splendid Côte du Py, this cuvée spéciale reinforces everything we love about Beaujolais while simultaneously shattering all the usual preconceptions about Gamay. The texture is pure velvet, to the point that you may forget about swallowing, it feels so good to swish it around over your palate. There is substance, flesh, serious density yet it is delivered with total finesse, seductiveness, even sexiness. While some might argue the price is high for a simple Gamay, I would counter that it is just right for a world-class wine that will entice and inspire for many years to come.

$48.00 per bottle $518.40 per case

December Newsletter: Values of the Month, White Burgundy

The December Newsletter is now available.

Click here to download the pdf.

Highlights from this month’s newsletter…


selected by kermit lynch

by Dixon Brooke

We’ve got two Kermit Lynch custom selections here, an old friend and a new face. We are excited about having a white selection out of Italy, even more so since it is from an area we rarely travel—the Marche region along the Adriatic coast, due east from Tuscany. Whites that deliver this much pleasure and value are elusive.


For those long familiar with our French portfolio, I’ll call this wine the Muscadet of Italy. With its inviting aromatics of yellow fruits, cut grass, and sea breeze, its dark straw yellow robe, and its pleasant roundness coupled with bright acidity, briny salinity, and invigorating finish, this checks all my boxes for well-made, traditional Melon de Bourgogne from the Sèvre et Maine. But it’s not. It is Italian to the core, from a region with a centuries-old tradition of growing the great Verdicchio grape, and makes an excellent apéritif or a tasty and fitting accompaniment to seafood and light pastas. Buon appetito.

$12.00 per bottle $129.60 per case


For decades, this reliable red wine has been one of our company’s calling cards. Maybe it is because Kermit has spent so much of his life in this area of France, steeped in its cultural, culinary, and vinous traditions. This bottling is kind of like an extension of his personality, and certainly of his habits at table. First of all, the drinkability factor. Here medium-bodied is not an insult—au contraire. Then the flavors: think of sun-baked, Provençal hillsides with their fruit trees and olive groves and (of course) vineyards, growing in fertile earth that hides pungent black truffles. Also, understand that we have the same requirements for value wine as for any wine we import: flawless, well-made, with character and sense of place, enjoyable to drink at table, providing pleasure (the deliciousness factor). Kermit has never hesitated to work as hard, or to express as much interest and giddy excitement, for a simple Côtes du Rhône or Beaujolais as he has for the most reputed grand crus. That is the culture he created at KLWM and one that we will never relinquish. We hope you enjoy our little Côtes du Rhône.

$12.95 per bottle $139.86 per case


by Anthony Lynch

2014 CHABLIS • francine et olivier SAVARY >

The Savary family consistently produces Chablis so classic you could look up the flavor profile on Wikipedia. Their 2014 truly tastes how Chablis should taste: an unmistakable product of soil and grape inimitable anywhere else in the world. You’ll appreciate the Savary for its typicité as well as the righteous price point.

$24.00 per bottle $259.20 per case


The Roberts are onto something very special in the rolling hills of the Mâconnais, crafting wines with a level of purity and drive that all Chardonnays should aspire to achieve. The first step is a diligent selection of terroirs: the lieu-dit in question here, La Croix, features rocky schist soils home to eighty-five-year-old vines. In the cellar, the wine ferments slowly with natural yeasts and ages in barrel for almost two years untouched on its fine lees. Finally, it is bottled unfiltered with a minimal sulfur dose. The 2013 edition comes out rich, generous, and toothsome, with layer upon layer of orchard fruit, flowers, and a subtle creaminess. Upheld by an intense, biting, stony sensation, this masterpiece will drink beautifully for many years.

$44.00 per bottle $475.20 per case


How about a grand cru you can dive into right away? This young Chablis will offer loads of pleasure should you choose to indulge tonight. I suggest a bit of aeration or decanting to optimize the experience; then immerse yourself in its unctuous Chardonnay fruit, fleshy, mouth-filling texture, and long finish suggestive of sweet butter and sea salt. It is a rich Chablis with an alluring lavishness, which I expect will slim down to show its mineral bones as the years go by.

$75.00 per bottle $810.00 per case

Visit the Loire

by Kermit Lynch

During my recent visit to the Chinon/Bourgueil region for tastings, I couldn’t help thinking of my readers and clients, and how much you might enjoy the same trip, but as a vacation. You will discover a special charm and dynamic. There is a lot of great old stuff to see—the plentiful historic châteaux, for example—and exciting current developments, like the increasingly organic and biodynamic wine and food scene.

The French call Corsica l’Île de Beauté, and their nickname for the Loire is Le Jardin de France. Every house and property appears to have its own flower and vegetable garden, which seem as thriving as gardens can be. Flowers, fruits, and vegetables galore!

To get there, you can fly to Nantes from London or Paris; rent a car and Bourgueil is only a two-hour drive from the airport by autoroute. Or meander on the small riverside routes for a more scenic, bucolic experience. Stop in Savennières and visit our producer, Château d’Epiré—beautiful village, lovely winery in the château’s rustic chapel, and the broad, shallow Loire River outside your car window.


The Loire’s Château d’Ussé inspired Walt Disney © Kermit Lynch

Or take the TVG from Paris to Tours (only 59 minutes), rent a car, and start your vacation across the river in Vouvray. Then drive west along the Loire on D952 toward Bourgueil and its glorious Cabernet Francs.

Stay at the eighteenth-century Château de Rochecotte in Saint-Patrice. I’ve enjoyed it for a decade or two. It provides about forty acres of garden, park, and forest to explore on foot. The restaurant isn’t bad if you don’t feel like venturing out, but my delicious Vouvray from Domaine Champalou, 2010, was not flattered by an overcooked slice of swordfish. Better dining awaits elsewhere. And anyway, there are no swordfish in the Loire.

I also spent a couple of nights in Restigné at a chambre d’hôte called La Dixmeresse. I generally avoid chambres d’hôtes because of a few experiences with intrusive hosts, but Bruno and Valérie seemed to value their solitude as much as I do mine.

We import wine from four domaines around there: Joguet, Breton, Baudry, and Chanteleuserie. All would be happy to see you. Be sure to check out Domaine Breton’s website for regional lodging and cuisine.

Between Bourgueil and Chinon, you’ll be thrilled to see an enormous nuclear power plant steaming away, ignoring the catastrophe that, the French are assured, will never happen.

Never mind. Chinon has a lovely center of old buildings dominated by the visitable ruins of the Château de Chinon, with its Joan of Arc and Richard the Lionheart connections.

Nearby, on the banks of the Loire, are the two villages Candes-Saint-Martin and Montsoreau. Walk their narrow streets—there aren’t many, but it’s a treat. At the west end of Montsoreau, go up a street or two from the Loire and turn right. A little path leads you alongside the chalk cliff in which habitations still exist. The cliff has doors and windows, plus deep caves where building blocks were excavated centuries ago. The caves come in handy today for aging wines, which can live longer than we do.

Candes has a good restaurant with about eight tables, right below the village’s Catholic church. The grilled cèpes were perfect in front of the fireplace on a cold, foggy night, and I had a heart-poundingly lovable dessert, mainly because the raspberries were the best I’ve ever tasted. Maybe I’m easy to please. The place is called the Auberge de la Route d’Or, and it is reasonably priced.


At Montsoreau near Chinon © Kermit Lynch

Back around 1980, Charles Joguet took me to the Bourgueil vineyards to taste at Domaine Lame-Delisle-Boucard, and I imported their wines for two or three years. I decided to drop in and say hello, and found that the current winemaker, Philippe Boucard, is the grandson of the fellow who was making the wines when I initially visited. Philippe pulled out all of the stops, uncorking his grandfather’s 1976, 1964, 1959, and 1947 Bourgueil reds. The 1964, especially, was a thoroughbred. But the most remarkable for me was the 1949 rosé. Yes! Still full of life, with ravishing aromas and a fleshy texture. We spent some time swallowing that one. It was vinified in an oak foudre and completed its malo, which is how Lucien Peyraud made Domaine Tempier’s Bandol rosé and is still the best recipe.

About fifty yards downhill from Philippe’s frigid limestone cellar, I found a gem of a restaurant and returned several times. Again, only a few tables and you feel like you are in someone’s home, which you are. Vincent and Olivia Simon do it right. Their luscious vegetable garden is outside the window, all organic, as are their chickens, ducks, guinea hens, and rabbits.

In the past, Vincent was a wine importer in Belgium and worked in a three-star restaurant. He and Olivia dreamed of a better day-to-day existence. They grew more and more passionate about changing. Then, to hell with profit, status, stability—they were after a certain quality of life. (We could use a new political party in the U.S. devoted to its citizens’ quality of life.) They are bursting with smiles after buying a farm in Bourgueil, and I was about to burst from overeating—not to mention the wine list, which had too many temptations. Try as I might, I didn’t get to the 1999 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape at 95 euros. At a restaurant today in Bandol, I saw the 2012 Gros ’Noré at 72 euros, so you see what a giveaway the 1999 Châteauneuf was. Several Raveneau Chablis were available for a song, too.

The eggs en meurette (a red wine sauce with lardons and little onions) were a treat—eggs from their chickens, bien sûr! Their garden salad seemed plucked leaf by leaf from a huge variety of leafy greens. And the rabbit in rosé wine had just the right hint of mustard and was the best rabbit I’ve ever tasted. Another best ever? Vincent’s chocolate cake.

Their restaurant is Vincent Cuisinier de Campagne. I’m sitting here writing this thinking you should go. And who knows, but I’ll bet you become forever clients of our great Chinon and Bourgueil selections—the best there are, and they are here in Berkeley for your quality of life.

orn-1.1Interested in discovering some Loire wines? We have a special sampler this month featuring a diverse selection from across the Loire…


Faithful, open-minded clients have kept us in the Loire Valley wine business for years. As a sort of tribute to those of you who have supported and enjoyed these wines, we’ve assembled a diverse collection from across the Loire. Note the classics: Chinon from Joguet, Savennières from Epiré, Vouvray from Champalou. To dig a little deeper, we’ve included a single-vineyard Muscadet, a Sancerre rouge (made from Pinot Noir), and a rare Pinot Gris bottling from the village of Reuilly. Most of you must already be aware of the pleasure these wines deliver and the bountiful character that the Loire has to offer. Newcomers, you are in for a treat—at a discount!

November Newsletter: Introducing Weingut Carlotto, Toscana

The November Newsletter is now available.

Click here to download the pdf.

Highlights from this month’s newsletter…


by Dixon Brooke

The search for the holy grail of Lagrein ended at the humble doorstep of this tiny father-daughter estate in the town of Ora, just south of Bolzano in Italy’s Alto Adige. Ferruccio Carlotto and his daughter Michela farm five hectares of vines in the stony riverbed plains of the valley, surrounded by sheer cliffs. Precise viticulture and vinification along with patient aging in large Slavonian oak casks give birth to the Lagrein of our dreams.


Michela Carlotto © Gail Skoff


The locals drink Schiava by the gallon—kind of like Dolcetto in Piedmont. Feathery light, with very little tannin, it is slightly darker than rosé. So many examples are insipid and boring. I was thrilled to find one with so much fruit, floral character, and pizzazz.

$25.00 per bottle $270.00 per case



Black, inky, and dense, yet smooth as silk and weightless on the palate. What a combo! Not many wines out there have this kind of balance.

$32.00 per bottle $345.60 per case



by Anthony Lynch


The Castagnoli Estate © Gail Skoff


Perched at 450 meters above sea level atop a towering hillside overlooking the magnificent Tuscan countryside, Castagnoli enjoys a microclimate of its own, where cool nights favor bright, focused acidity that accentuates this red’s crunchy schist backbone. The winemaking is elemental: the harvest is brought in by hand, destemmed and crushed, and left to ferment naturally in open bins with occasional punchdowns and pumpovers. Aging in neutral wood conserves Sangiovese’s vibrant fruit and herbaceous qualities, yielding a delicious Chianti Classico for now or later, with extraordinary potential at table.

$29.00 per bottle $313.20 per case



The Sesti family’s Brunello marks our first arrival from the much-anticipated 2010 vintage. Already emanating a marvelous fragrance despite its youthfulness, this noble beast has lived up to—if not exceeded—the great promise of the millesimo. An exquisite aroma of scorched earth, dry herbs, and exotic spices leads to a dense and concentrated, yet graceful-as-can-be palate defined by majestic dark fruit enveloping a firm core. The sustained finish is nothing short of regal. This is a Brunello you’ll want to start drinking now and patiently follow over its long, fascinating life span.

$85.00 per bottle $918.00 per case

Remembering Paul Bara

Last week we were saddened to hear of the recent passing of legendary Champagne producer Paul Bara. Established in Bouzy in 1833, the House of Bara has passed family traditions from generation to generation for more than 170 years. The village of Bouzy and Champagne Paul Bara are practically synonymous. As the published village historian, Paul was, and forever will be, indelibly linked to the lore of his hometown. Many agree that he is their most renowned producer, being one of the rare récoltants-manipulants in a region inundated with the mass-produced wines of the large, corporate champagne houses. Today, Paul’s daughter Chantale continues his legacy. Our National Sales Manager, Bruce Neyers, has shared with us his memory of first meeting Paul. We hope you’ll join us in raising a glass to Paul Bara, a true champion of Champagne.


The cellar of Paul Bara © Champagne Paul Para

I learned earlier this week that Paul Bara of Bouzy died a few days ago, in Bouzy at the age of 93. I had to pause and collect myself upon hearing the news. I met Paul on my first trip to France for Kermit, in January 1993. He greeted us wearing a suit and a tie, along with a handsome cloth homburg that seemed to have come right out of a Marcel Pagnol film. He said he wore it all day because he never knew when he had to go into the icy cellars.

He collected all 12 of us in his office — prominently decorated with beautiful antique maps of the region. He poured each of us a glass of Champagne, then sat us down in classroom fashion and conducted a lecture replete with photos of the vineyards, and a history lesson of the Champagne region. He spoke of Champagne as three regions, and then talked about the historical, cultural and political reasons it had become divided. He was a big man, powerfully built and physically imposing, and he seemed even larger standing in front of us all, wielding his pointer to show this or that district and describe the Champagne from each respective area.

He then took us to the cellar and pointed out the pick marks of the tunnels in the chalk. He explained how they were dug by hand in the days before the ‘Great War’, and then showed the tunnel extension that he had dug himself, alone, without help. I seem to recall that he said he could get about two meters deep a day, about 2.5 meters high, and 2 meters wide. Their bottling system was most impressive, as it was an antique, capable of doing only one bottle at a time.

He would always disgorge a few bottles for us — I think he kept them on the riddling rack just to show off. No one could ever take a photograph of him disgorging Champagne, so fast was he able to disgorge it. He would do a dozen or so bottles in just a few seconds. He was an intellectual on his craft, and always affable, professorial and generous. And he loved to drink Champagne. He reminded me of why it is that Champagne makes us so cheerful. –Bruce Neyers


by Kermit Lynch



© Gail Skoff

Mold might be considered a tough sell these days, but here I go.

When I began to buy wine in Burgundy in the seventies, the vignerons had a saying: If you build a cave, a winery installation, and mold doesn’t grow in it, start all over in another location. They were saying that mold is a good thing in a winemaking environment. And I remember what a treat it was, descending underground and being greeted by the smells of wine, wood, and moldy stone walls.

You might imagine a moldy smell like fruits and other foods develop when they rot, but no, it wasn’t that at all. It smelled fresh and alive and healthy. The mold glistened with little drops of moisture. Mold was a sign of the right temperature and humidity for raising wine. Each cellar had its own particular mold and gave its own fresh aroma. Wines seemed to breathe in the distinct aroma of their cellar, and I could smell that in the aromatic components of each domaine’s wine.

Each growth of mold had a different color, too, which made the walls a thing of beauty. In Raveneau’s cellar, for example, the stone walls had gorgeous streaky blotches of red, purple, pink, orange, and ochre. When I tasted, it was often with my eyes on the walls. In my mind, I started framing certain areas of the walls and imagining them as abstract art, because they were so lovely. Chave’s cellar was another particularly beautiful garden of mold, and I often put photos of his mold-covered walls and bottles in this brochure.

One day at Raveneau’s, I decided to ask my wife to teach me to use one of her cameras so I could return another day, not to taste but to make color pictures of these weird shapes and colors. But I never did.

However, I’m writing this because the movement now in France is to clean up all the mold and make wine in a sterile environment. People want fresh fruit nowadays. Their taste has changed. Mold is a no-no.

Given that wine is a sponge and sucks up whatever aromas are in its environment, I’m afraid wines these days are sucking up sterility. Yes, the fruit is “cleaner” in a wine’s aroma, but without mold much less complex, less suggestive of extra-vinous influences, and less reflective of the site where it was made—sort of like the movement away from native yeasts to test-tube concoctions.

If people like mere fruit so much, let them buy fruit juice. It’s a lot cheaper.