France: The Affordable Pleasures France is a treasure trove of fine wine at affordable prices. “How can this be?” you ask…”with many Bordeaux, Burgundies and Champagnes selling at all time highs?” But it’s true. Aside from a couple of hundred well known brands and top chateaux from the most renowned appellations, the rest of France constitutes a versatile bargain…ripe for picking. Even in well known appellations, there are bargains galore, rising stars, and a bevy of young talented upstarts eager to make a name for themselves, all selling fine wine at modest prices. What you need is the willingness to depart from the time worn and often overpriced “top” forty in any given locale, and the world of fine French wine awaits your beg and call, and at prices you can afford. For the past decade or more, France has been in the midst of a fine wine renaissance, transforming its wine industry from top to bottom. Driven by a new generation of young, quality -minded winegrowers, superb terroir, modern technology and a concentrated government effort that encourages the quality rather than the quantity of production, nearly all of the viticultural areas of France are producing better wines now than ever before. Twenty years ago, who had ever heard of a Viognier, a Gigondas, a Vacqueyras or better still a Rasteau, let alone ever had the opportunity to drink such a wine? And just a few years ago, while America and the rest of the collectors and speculators in the wine importing world were fixated on the Top 100 French Chateaux, the other thousands of growers and producers were virtually ignored, despite undeniable evidence that many of these bona fide estates were making better wines than the so-called, self aggradising Top 100. While many of the more expensive names were content to live off their reputations, many lesser known producers were busy replanting vineyards, refurbishing their facilities and building reputations for quality, at a fraction of the cost of the big name guys just down the road. So don’t be put off by unfamiliar name or an odd sounding appellation (place name of origin); France is ripe with affordable pleasures. And let us not forget that France is the home to nearly all of the great international varietals, red and white, which means that strange sounding appellation may just produce some of the world’s best Syrah or Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Merlot, and they probably do. And, we haven’t even mentioned Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc or Grenache, etc., etc. as the list goes on. So be open and daring, taste and compare, and see that at the moment France is the affordable pleasure. May the dollar remain strong, amen.