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Murray: Wine club members in Georgia mainly out of luck
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Wine of the month
Miolo Brut sparkling wine
The wine: Crisp, dry Champagne-style sparkling wine
The grapes: 50 percent pinot noir, 50 percent chardonnay
The source: Brazil's Wine Valley
The verdict: This one's a keeper! It's one of the few Brazilian wines I've sampled, but if it is an indication of the quality of wines coming out of South America's largest country, I'm paying attention. One would assume a Portuguese influence on wine making there. But, no. An Italian, Giuseppe Miolo, founded his winery in southern Brazil, in 1897. That territory has come to be known as the Wine Valley. This bubbly is made using the Champagne method, and two of the three permitted grapes used in France's Champagne region. It is crisp, yet creamy, with throngs of tiny bubbles yearning to breathe free. It has a toasty aroma and will work well with just about any food. Ask your wine merchant to order some for you.
The price: About $16
Time to clean out the old mail bag. I welcome questions from readers; drop me a note c/o The Times, or e-mail me (the address is at the end of this column). I do respond to each one when I receive it, but hoard them for a column just like this one.

Question: I know Georgia changed its laws regarding buying wine from out of state, but I've been told by an online wine club I belong to that they still are not able to sell wine directly to Georgia residents. What's the story here?
Answer: Great question. I asked the office of state Rep. Carl Rogers of Gainesville where to start looking. His staff put me in touch with Georgia's Department of Revenue, Alcohol and Tobacco Division. Here's a translation of the legislation known as O.C.G.A. 3-6-31, which regulates direct wine sales.
If you belong to a wine club, you're out of luck. Entities such as wine clubs, retailers or individuals do not meet the law's requirements and are not permitted to ship wine to Georgians.
Wineries, however, can qualify; but whether in-state or out-of-state, they must have a licensing agreement with Georgia to ship to consumers. It's called a Special Order Shipping Wine License. If you are dealing with a licensed winery you can go online, drop a note or pick up the phone and order your wine - so long as you can prove you are at least 21. Licensed wineries are permitted to send a maximum of 12 cases annually to one individual or one address. When the wine arrives, an adult signature will be required by the shipper.
But let's say you're tasting at a winery in Sonoma County, Calif., and you really want a case or three of that luscious pinot noir. In that case, if that winery has a Federal Basic Wine Manufacturing permit, and you are on the winery property, you may order up to five cases per year. That winery, with you on the premises, does not have to have a Georgia Special Order Shipping Wine License.
Unfortunately, Georgia does not have a public list of licensed wineries. If you want to know if your favorite wine producer is permitted to ship here, you have two choices: Contact the winery and ask, or file a freedom of information request with the Tax Law & Policy Division of the Georgia Department of Revenue.

Q: We are going to France in September and will be touring different wine-producing areas, primarily in the Cotes du Rhone. We know a little about wine, but I'm curious what should we be looking for?
A: Think local! Do not look for familiar labels; shop for the wines that are made right where you are. Frequently the best local wines never make it more than 20 miles from the winery. You'll find them in the local wine shops and restaurants. But you probably won't find them in Paris, and these local treasures are almost never shipped to the U.S. Ask your tour guide, or find someone in a wine shop or restaurant who knows the local wines. You will be amazed at some of the gems you'll discover shopping that way. This advice is good whether you're in the Rhone Valley, Tuscany, Germany's Weinstrasse or the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Ask a local what she or he likes, then give it a try.

Q: I gave a very good bottle of California Champagne as a wedding gift, along with a nice set of glasses. In my note I wrote, "We hope you enjoy this Champagne on your first anniversary." The bride's mother corrected me after the gifts were opened. "That's not really Champagne, you know." I simply smiled. Was she right?
A: Was she right about the wine, or was she right to be a first-class snot on her daughter's wedding day? The answers: Yes and No! Technically speaking, if a sparkling wine is not produced in the Champagne region, it cannot be called Champagne. It's the law in Europe, and many sparkling wine producers worldwide tacitly agree not to call their products Champagne - even if the wine is made following the Champagne method, using only the three grape types permitted in Champagne. But many producers, especially in America, disregard both the law and the tradition and slap the name Champagne on some pretty sorry bubbly.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month.