Thursday, November 10, 2005

France Confers Highest Honor to Kermit

It’s been long overdue, but the French government informed Kermit Lynch recently that he’s being conferred the title of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest accolade. It’s a much deserved award as no other American has been more influential in the world of wine, particularly French wine, during the past three decades.

Before Kermit, the British dictated what wine consumers should drink, and that means almost always Bordeaux, particularly the region’s aristocratic classed growths. Kermit’s untainted passion for wine and sense of adventure led him to France’s seldom trodden wine paths. He gushed about the peasant wines of Provence, the Rhône, Languedoc-Roussillon, southwest France, Savoie, Alsace, Corsica, and the Loire Valley like they’re the equals of the famed wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

But that’s not all. Kermit’s obsession for quality and authenticity made him pay more importance on how wine is made and shipped, rather than on titles, class, and pedigrees, which were the main focus of the British wine trade. He demanded of his producers not to filter their wines so they so they won’t be stripped of their essential flavors. He pioneered in the shipping of wines across the Atlantic in reefer containers, regardless of whether they cost $5 or $100 a bottle, to maintain their freshness.

Above all, Kermit promoted to wine consumers, especially in his book and in his witty newsletters, a humanist, rather than a mere hedonistic, appreciation of wines. Its as if he gazed at a wine glass and discovered that wine and civilization are inextricably linked.

note: Americans who have received the award include comedian Jerry Lewis, film director Martin Scorsese, cooking show legend Julia Child, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Eileen Collins, actors Gregory Peck and Robert DeNiro, President Ronald Reagan, Gulf war general Normal Schwarzkopf, and wine critic Robert Parker.

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