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French Wine Importer Q &A

View over Corsica from vineyard of Antoine Arena
Bickham's View over Corsica From a Favorite Vineyard

I recently took the time to chat with Bickham Kelly from Kermit Lynch Imports about his career in the wine industry and of course the ins and outs of surviving these trying times! This in preparation for my virtual tasting with Bickham this Thursday at Edmund's Oast Exchange (but via Zoom). Email me if you would like to join or even watch the recording after the fact.

How long have you been in the wine business?

10 years

What initially drew you to this world? Happenstance? Or even a certain bottle?

Necessity for a job drew me into the wine business; I didn’t know what I wanted to do in my very early twenties and started working at a wine shop in Nashville, TN. The people, wealth of information to explore and a lot of generosity drew me headfirst into the world during that period.

How has it felt to be in the wine business during the COVID pandemic? Even as the world pauses, grapes keep growing so there will still be wine to sell but here in the United States the restaurant business has taken such a heavy hit...

It’s been tough for everyone in the food and beverage industry on many different levels. The grapes certainly do not stop growing and once they are vinified the vignerons have to find space in the cellar for them. The slowing of restaurant business worldwide has put the majority of farmers into difficult positions similar to restaurateurs. My family is in the restaurant business and I have watched my father deal with this tumultuous time first hand, crippling at times is an understatement. On the positive side, the resilience, creativity and ability to adapt from so many has been amazing and inspiring to witness.

What has been your own therapy during this crazy time -- Wine? Food? Exercise?

Lots of cooking, I believe I cooked my way through an entire Peter Meehan book one week in April.

Have there been any especially memorable bottles or meals during this time? I know I have certainly tried to find reasons to celebrate and open special bottles. There has also been that “smoke em if you got em” feeling to this whole thing!

I definitely embraced the “anytime is the right time” ideology during quarantine. Clape Cornas on a Monday with a hamburger? Sure! Raveneau for a Friday lunch, great idea! Meo-Camuzet on a Saturday morning, I don’t see why not.

How is 2020 harvest looking for your producers?

(I know that’s a broad question you have so many!)

I’ll stick to Burgundy as it is a pretty monumental vintage with all of our growers finishing harvest before September 1st! The Bien Public, the daily newspaper in the Côte d'Or, has announced 2020 as the earliest harvest since 1371. The picking conditions have been excellent. Really the entire season was perfect until August. Yields will definitely be significantly down for reds in 2020, but quality should be quite high for both reds and whites. The maturation process of the vines was blocked a bit in August so the grapes maintained good levels of acidity that should not have been diluted much by light rains, so the wines should be quite balanced.

On a personal level what lessons do you hope to take away from this tumultuous year and what is your vision for moving forward as a country and as a global citizen?

I hope that the light that has been shown on the social inequality in America during this time doesn’t go out and begins to spur change. This year is far from over and I can’t even begin to imagine what things will look like down the road. Our world will be forever changed by the events of this year and being kinder to one another will certainly help make that transition more cohesive.

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