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So many wines, so little cash

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Wine consumption in the United States has been steadily increasing year after year, so much so that we are poised to overtake the French as consuming the most wine per capita. It will be quite interesting (possibly frightening?) to see how that trend is affected by the current state of the U.S. economy.

"You can't drink Domaine de la Romanée-Conti every day," says Phillippe Bourgeois of Bourgeois Family Selections. "We wish that we could, but most can't afford to. Even if we could, drinking it every day would take the magic away from it. Opening a bottle of the best wine in the world would no longer be the special moment that it should be."

Bourgeois specializes in importing wines from France. His portfolio includes wines from all over the country — the Rhône, Jura, Burgundy, and Provence, to name a few.

When wine drinkers hear "French wine," they might not instantly think of a good value to price ratio. Bourgeois is out to prove this isn't necessarily the case. "I want more people to enjoy wine," he says, "and I also want to show that there are many affordable wines from France that are absolutely delicious."

One line that he imports, In Fine, focuses on the grape varietals of Southern France (Grenache, Syrah, Clairette, and Ugni Blanc). In Fine covers a white, red, and rosé — all of which provide excellent quality for their price point.

Bourgeois has found a way to offer wines that overdeliver for the price. For example, he found a producer who previously had been selling their Grenache to the négociant, who would then blend it into their $50 Chateauneuf du Pape. That producer, Domaine du Chateaumar, is now bottling that single vineyard Grenache exclusively for Bourgeois, who is offering it for $16.

Wine drinkers are going to have to learn to experiment in order to continue to drink quality juice. Breaking outside of the realm of comfort reveals a wealth of wines to choose from. Regions that might have been off the radar are becoming more available in Memphis.

Sardinia, Italy, is just such a source. The white grape Vermentino from this area produces wines with fresh herbal notes, bright citrus flavors, and a fresh acidity. Red grapes such as Cannanou and Monica are also indigenous to this Mediterranean island. The Argiolas family has been farming Sardinia for generations and create wines that are expressive, powerful, and sensual. Their Cannanou-based wines are reminiscent of the best wines of the Southern Rhône Valley of France yet with a spicy expression all their own. The Monica-based wines are rich, supple, concentrated, and powerful and would easily please a drinker who leans toward New World wines.

Closer to home, Cline Winery in Sonoma County produces a value-oriented Viognier, Syrah, and Zinfandel that are not only delicious but also typical expressions of their grapes. This isn't an easy feat considering all three retail for under $15. At that price point, most wineries would take shortcuts to drive down the cost and churn out a wine that isn't so expressive and even less complex. Their Viognier is floral-, citrus-, and tropical-fruit-laden and lively with acidity. Their Syrah is smoky, filled with blueberry and earth with gripping and supple tannins. Cline's Zinfandel is spicy, brimming with raspberry and cranberry and a ripe, rich texture.

Across the globe, winemakers are offering all of us a little economic relief in the form of unique, expressive, and, more importantly, delicious wines.

Recommended Wines

In Fine Blanc 2007, Côtes du Ventoux France, $13.99

In Fine Rouge 2007, Côtes du Ventoux France, $13.99

Domaine du Chateumar 2007, Côtes du Rhône, $16.99

Argiolas Costamalino Vermentino 2007, Sardinia, Italy, $16.99

Argiolas Perdera (Monica) 2006, Sardinia, Italy, $17.99

Cline Viognier 2007, Sonoma County, $13.99

Cline Syrah 2007, Sonoma County, $13.99

Cline Zinfandel 2006, Sonoma County, $12.99

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