Kermit Lynch’s seminal work, “Adventures on the Wine Route,” is just that sort of book. First published in 1988, the book chronicles the travels through France of Mr. Lynch, an American wine importer, as he visits growers and producers.
It seems as fresh and thought-provoking today as it was when I first read it decades ago. It’s no accident that more than 30 years later, it continues to be a book cited by many in the wine trade as one of the most influential they have read.
Partly, this is because the book succeeds on multiple levels. As a dark warning of the dangers of chemical farming and soulless, technological winemaking, “Adventures” served as a prophecy and blueprint for the next 30 years of wine history. As an introduction to unforgettable characters and idiosyncratic estates, some of which no longer exist, it’s an entertaining window on a bygone era.
But mostly, Mr. Lynch writes about wine, food and culture, down-to-earth, intertwined pleasures. He tells the story of his friend, the food-and-wine writer Richard Olney, who bought a barrel of light, vibrant Beaujolais Nouveau, before nouveau became a global phenomenon, and brought it back to his home in Provence. Together, they emptied the barrel into bottles, consuming a fair amount as they did the job.
“No, we did not discuss the pH, the oak, the body, the finish,” Mr. Lynch wrote. “The tart fruit perfumed the palate and the brain; it seemed thirst-quenching, and yet our thirst was never so quenched that another purplish slurp seemed out of order.
“Wine is, above all, pleasure. Those who would make it ponderous make it dull.”
If you haven’t read “Adventures” before, you will want to read it all the way through. I have multiple times. Nowadays, I like to dip into it for a chapter or even a few pages. Still, I always feel that I learn something.