Pushing boundaries on the wine list

“Our decision to upscale the wine list was calculated to focus on creating unforgettable dining experiences,” says Monte Silva, GM of Bound’ry restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee. Eighteen months ago, he was brought in to change the concept to attract a better-heeled customer and sell more wine. Now Bound’ry boasts some 300 bottles, including some first-growth Bordeaux priced as high as $800 for a 2007 Chateau Latour. Silva changes up the selections weekly.

The bold plan is working, says Silva. “Classic cabernets and Bordeaux satisfy the expense account set, but we also appeal to foodies with our eclectic mix of boutique wineries.” .

French and other European wines dominate, matching well with Bound’ry’s French-based but globally inspired cuisine. Pricewise, the sweet spot is $50 to $80. But the list also contains plenty of reasonable gems (as low as $28 a bottle) from South Africa and South America, such as Rooiberg Sauvignon Blanc and Montgras Carmenere from Chile. “Those are my go-to regions for quality, value-driven wines,” notes Silva.

Guests wishing to experiment can choose from 28 pours by the glass (priced $8 to $17) and an impressive selection of 50 half bottles (ranging $26 to $80). To highlight new and interesting wines, Silva also offers four flights of both reds and whites from the Old World and the New; priced about $11 for three 2-ounce pours.

Bound’ry’s decanting ceremony is a bit of theater that helps sell more wine. For young, tannic wines the restaurant employs a “flash decanter” to aerate the wine—a process performed at the table. Beforehand, the guest is given a sip straight from the bottle so that they can taste the difference.

Where to find wine values

Here are a few values I discovered from more obscure wine regions of Europe during recent tastings.

Valtellina, Italy: Just to the east of Piedmont is Lombardy, home to the Valtellina region, where much more affordable red wine is made from the same Nebbiolo grape as Barolo and Barbaresco. Look for the Superiore designation, which means the wine is given at least a year in wood. A good example: Nino Negri “Vigneto Fracia” Valtellina Superiore 2008 ($35), with a floral nose of violets and berries and a rich taste of plums and smoke.

Toro, Spain: Awarded DO status in 1987, the new generation of Toro wines are excellent and great values. Reds are made from tinta de Toro grapes (aka temparanillo) and feature cherry-raspberry flavors with food-friendly acidity. My favorite in Bodegas Farina’s reasonably priced portfolio is Dama de Toro Crianza 2006 (about $13), with its spice and vanilla nose, and black cherry, currant and pepper palate.

Loire Valley, France: Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume and Muscadet are the best-known appellations here, but Vouvray, Chinon and Bourgueil also make good, reasonable restaurant wines. An excellent rose is Sauvion Rose d’Anjou (SRP $12.99), a mostly Cabernet Sauvignon blend that is refreshing, fruity and versatile.

Wine leads market share

2012 on-premise beverage alcohol growth forecast:
3.5% Wine
2.3% Spirits
2.2% Beer
2.4% Overall

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