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Wine & Spirits 2017: Nine wines to try this summer

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2016 Planeta Rose
Sicilia, Italy
Retail $15-$16

Some rose wines miss the point. Most grapes used to make rose are not shrinking violets, and a rose's aroma and flavor should reflect the grape's character. Nero d'Avola grapes, associated with Sicily, and syrah grapes are used in wines that never would be mistaken for having meek or shrinking characters. It makes sense this rose from one of Sicily's renowned houses delivers full flavor. Vinified from equal parts nero d'Avola and syrah, it presents strawberry and cherry characteristics and is ready to enjoy young. It is a stylish blend of the grapes, and the wine is relatively low in alcohol (12 percent). Drink it with boiled seafood, shrimp remoulade and fried chicken.

Buy it at: Zuppardo's Family Supermarket and Acquistapace's in Covington and Mandeville.
Drink it at: Avo, Marcello's Restaurant and Pizza Domenica.


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2015 Cote Est
Catalan, France
Retail $9-$12

Catalan is associated with Spain, but there also is a Catalan region in southern France. It's near Roussillon and is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees, with sun-parched valleys and low mountains. This wine is a blend of 50 percent grenache, 30 percent chardonnay and 20 percent roussanne, all white grapes indigenous to the area. Jean-Marc Lafage is in his 30s and already has earned an impressive reputation as a winemaker. He opted not to let anything get in the way of the freshness of this summertime wine, so the blend did not touch oak. The tank-fermented blend offers aromas of dried apricot, honey, citrus and floral tones. On the palate, the crisp wine has lingering fruit flavors and notes of acidity. It should be well-chilled and served with light dishes such as salads, cold soups, deviled eggs and seafood.

Buy it at: The Wine Seller, Spirit Wine, Pearl Wine Co., Prytania Liquor Store and Langenstein's in Metairie. Drink it at: Catahoula Hotel, The Franklin, Bacchanal Wine and Kajun's Pub.


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2016 Honoro Vera Rose
Jumilla, Spain
Retail $10-$12

Murcia is not the best known Spanish wine-producing region. Among its three designated wine regions is Jumilla, tucked against the Mediterranean Sea south of Barcelona. The region is better known for growing citrus, but it also produces hardy syrah and tempranillo grapes. This Honoro Vera bottling has a deeper color than many roses but is an elegant and approachable version with low alcohol. One expects strawberry and cherry character, but it's the watermelon flavor that delights the palate. Drink it with spicy boiled crawfish, baked or grilled oysters, gazpacho, roasted vegetables, hot dogs, tacos and tuna poke.

Buy it at: Spirit Wine, Sidney's Wine Cellar, Grande Krewe Fine Wine & Spirits, Hong Kong Food Market and Cost Plus World Market. Drink it at: Tableau and Del Fuego Taqueria.


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2016 Arca Nova Branco
Vinho Verde, Portugal
Retail $11-$12

Vinho Verde is one of Portugal's uncomplicated, easy-drinking wines. It is made in areas of northern Portugal surrounding Porto, which is better known for producing port. Vinho Verde literally means "fresh wine," but it is both a style and a place, like Champagne. This Arca Nova version is a blend of 50 percent loureiro, 40 percent arinto and 10 percent trajadura. It is low in alcohol content (10.5 percent) and has Vinho Verde's trademark spritziness. It offers aromas of lemon and green apple. On the palate, taste soft minerality on the finish. Drink it with raw oysters, sushi, smoked salmon, chicken salad sandwiches and roasted nuts.

Buy it at: Faubourg Wines, Spirit Wine, Brady's Wine Warehouse, Swirl Wine Bar & Market, Pearl Wine Co. and W.I.N.O. Drink it at: The Bombay Club, Catahoula Hotel, Baru Bistro & Tapas, Basin Seafood & Spirits.


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2016 Toad Hollow Dry Rose of Pinot Noir
Sonoma County, California
Retail $12-$16

Toad Hollow made one of the first dry-style rose wines in the U.S. in 1995. The winery felt it had to explain that the wine was fully "dry," which means all the sugars in the grapes had been converted to alcohol. To the public, that meant it was not sugary sweet, like most American roses at the time. Today, most rose made in the U.S. is dry. This wine has strong aromas of candied cherry and some citrus on the palate. It has 11.5 percent alcohol, similar to European rose styles. Drink it with seafood, pizza, rosemary-roasted poultry, grilled salmon and spicy dishes.

Buy it at: Cost Plus World Market, Rouses on Tchoupitoulas Street, Whole Foods Market Arabella Station, Canseco's Market on Esplanade and Acquistapace's in Mandeville. Drink it at: High Hat Cafe, Mr. B's Bistro and Toad Hollow Cafe.


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2015 Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc
Walker Bay, South Africa
Retail $16-$18

In 1994, Anthony Hamilton-Russell founded Southern Right Winery primarily to focus on South Africa's specialty grape, pinotage. He also planted sauvignon blanc grapes so he could make wine while developing the red grapes. Fruit for this sauvignon blanc came from a variety of sites, many in the southernmost reaches of South Africa. Strong maritime influences on the vineyards give this wine its European style, as opposed to the more fruity styles from New Zealand. Clay soils at varying elevations contribute to the wine's complexity, and it does not touch oak. There is also a significant amount of minerality. Drink it with Asian and spicy dishes, salads, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and quiche. The name of the winery honors the southern right whale, and a portion of proceeds is devoted to protection of the species.

Buy it at: Martin Wine Cellar, Pearl Wine Co. and Whole Foods Market Arabella Station. Drink it at: Herbsaint Bar & Restaurant.


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2016 Rosi Mosi Rose
Kremstal, Austria
Retail $15-$16

Not many Americans are familiar with the wines of Austria's Niederosterreich region or the grape Zweigelt. Producer Martin Moser and his wife, Carmen, oversee the 300-year-old Hermann Moser winery, located in the town of Rohrendorf in the Kremstal wine-growing region. Kremstal is known for white grapes, but Zweigelt is a red grape, developed in 1922 by Fritz Zweigelt. He created it by combining the St. Laurent varietal, the most widely planted red wine grape in the Czech Republic, with blaufrankisch, a grape common throughout Central Europe that offers large tannins and spice characteristics. The name of the wine is a reference to Martin, who is said to develop red cheeks when drinking this wine. This wine comes in still and sparkling iterations and is best served well chilled. On the palate, taste dried cherry, apple, light expressions of strawberry, a bit of citrus and acidity. Drink it with Cuban sandwiches, barbecued ribs, strawberries and paella.

Buy it at: The Wine Seller and Spirit Wine. Drink it at: Restaurant August, Cafe Degas and Bacchanal Wine.


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2015 Castellucci Miano Catarratto
Sicilia, Italy

Retail $19

Catarratto, a white grape, is the most widely planted grape in Sicily, and has been overproduced to create a flood of inexpensive wines. In recent years, the European Union objected, and the quality of these wines has improved dramatically. This grape often is blended with other varietals to flesh out flavors and acids, but in this wine, it stands alone. White stone fruit characters, such as peach and apricot, have been enhanced in the vineyard, and improved acidity gives it a stronger flavor profile. The difference between what usually is expected from catarratto and this impressive wine is the presence of white peach, nectarine and a hint of sage on the palate. There's also tangy acidity and the flavor of honeydew melon. It should be served cool but not so cold that its fragile aromas are muted. Drink it with margherita pizza, pasta Bordelaise, linguine Alfredo, paneed veal and tiramisu.

Buy it at: Spirit Wine. Drink it at: Mona Lisa, Shaya, Altamura Italian Trattoria and Galliano Restaurant.


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2016 Guilhem Moulin de Gassac
Languedoc, France
Retail $7-$14

Mas de Daumas Gassac has long been recognized as the class act of the Languedoc region in southern France. Mountains protect the vineyards from harsh weather, and different seasonal winds help protect the vines. This wine is made from equal parts syrah and grenache and does not touch oak. It offers floral aromas such as lilac and a hint of jasmine. On the palate, taste minerality, strawberry, light cherry, currents and berries. Drink it with pate, terrines, charcuterie, duck confit and french fries.

Buy it at: Elio's Wine Warehouse, Wine Seller, Grande Krewe, Pearl Wine Co., Spirit Wine, Brady's Wine Warehouse, Swirl Wine Bar & Market, Keife & Co., Vieux Carre Wine & Spirits, Hopper's Carte des Vin, Bin 428, Dorignac's, Whole Foods Market Arabella Station and in Metairie and Acquistapace's stores. Drink it at: Catahoula Hotel, Revel Cafe & Bar, St. James Cheese Co. on Tchoupitoulas Street, Herbsaint Bar & Restaurant, Central City BBQ, Evangeline, The Country Club, Mondo, Jacques-Imo's Cafe, Meauxbar, Cavan, Primitivo, Chais Delachaise, Ace Hotel, Bacchanal Wine, Barrel Proof, N7, Delachaise, Daily Beet, Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, Freret Beer Room, Slice and The Quisby.

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