In a Pinch, Go with Lynch! 02/13/12
Ladies and gentlemen, it seems that once again, I have succumbed to the machinations of that most temporal of holidays, Groundhog Day; and once again, I find myself stuck in a rut – nigh Murray-esque in its ineluctability. Time may be moving forward, but I alas am not; although my trip to Virginia provided me with a wonderful breath of fresh wine, it had the unintended effect of making my return to the veritable vinic prison of Pennsylvania all the more depressing.
Compounding the sad reality that there is no Virginia wine for sale at Pennsylvania stores is the fact that there is very little Pennsylvania wine for sale at Pennsylvania stores. But thankfully, my local outlet is fairly well equipped when it comes to French and Italian selections, which probably explains why I drink so much wine from France and Italy.
This doesn’t mean I can always find what I’m looking for, but it does mean I can always find something to console me after failing to find what I was looking for. Take the other day, for instance, which found me fecklessly foraging for a bottle of Condrieu – French Viognier – to no avail. Truth be told, there might have been avail, had I continued looking, but it probably would have run me $50 or over, and what’s more my attention was diverted to a bottle from a funny little place called Lirac.
You may remember Lirac from this post I wrote about Lirac a while back, and more specifically the wine from Lirac that I was drinking: the La Griffe Mont Tauch 2008 Lirac Blanc. That was a white wine, so for a while, I regret to say that my impression of the region was based entirely on half of the picture – and of course, from my experience, the redder half is generally the better half.
This wine, the Domaine du Joncier Le Classique 2008, caught my attention because I recognized the name of the importer – something which rarely, rarely happens. There are two main reasons for this: first, my pitiful inability to recognize more than a small handful of famous wine importers; and second, the fact that rarely is an importer’s name printed so prominently as it was on this particular bottle. Just look at it.
Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Jason, just what is a wine importer, exactly?” Ignoring the fact that you apparently refer to yourself by my name, and should probably have that checked out, that’s a perfectly reasonable question, and one with a reasonably obvious answer: a wine importer, simply put, is someone who brings wines from one country into another – oftentimes in full compliance with the law. Contrary to what you may think, it’s important to distinguish importers from wine smugglers, who generally ignore that last part, and may very likely be foisting counterfeits upon their unwitting customers to boot.
So is a wine importer really just a glorified businessman? In a sense, yes, but in much the same way as familiarity with a given producer or region can provide hints as to the quality of a bottle you’ve yet to try, so too can knowing which importers tend to import the stuff you like. This is particularly true in areas like Pennsylvania, where it’s difficult to get good recommendations at wine stores themselves because the people staffing them tend not to know much about wine (one clerk recently needed to refer to a cheat sheet when a customer asked him the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot).
Kermit Lynch is, without a doubt, one of the top wine importers in the nation, focusing on France and Italy, two countries I coincidentally also happen to focus on, as mentioned above. I unfortunately haven’t tried too many of his selections yet, but when I see that he’s imported something, I’m generally willing to take a chance on it, because in addition to his litany of credentials on the subject of wine, I’ve simply yet to be disappointed by one of his. Also, he’s following me on Twitter, which certainly doesn’t hurt matters.
Anyway, back to the wine: the Domaine du Joncier Le Classique Lirac 2008 is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre – a classic red Rhone blend – though I’m not sure of the proportions. It cost me $20, at a time I had only been looking to spend $15, but Kermit’s reputation drew me in (along with the fact that this was the first Lirac I’d seen since summertime).
In the glass aromas of black cherry were dominant, with a hint of blueberry alongside a spice that I perceived as somewhere in between cinnamon and clove. A bit of chocolate rounded out the statement, while the palate presented woody cedar and spicy pepper notes along with boysenberry and more cherry. Tannins were soft but still present enough to hold my attention, while alcohol, fruit and acidity all played their roles without demanding extra close-ups or renewed contract negotiations. In short, the wine was balanced.
It’s a funny thing that I’ve yet to write about a Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blend, given how frequently I drink them. What I like about the mix generally boils down to complexity, and this wine had plenty.
I award the Domaine du Joncier Le Classique thumbs up. A solid wine indeed – though curiously, scoring lower than the white Lirac.