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Wine Guide 2014: Reviews 

Wines from around the world

NV Casa Dora Cava Brut
Retail $9-$11
The area just south of Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast is a point of origin for great sparkling wines. These wines, known as cava, have the structure, fruit and qualities — but not the prices — of Champagne or sparkling wines from California. The area is Penedes, and by law, cava must be produced in the classical method — in which the second fermentation takes place in a bottle. This wine is a blend of 50 percent macabeo, 35 percent parellada and 15 percent xarel-lo. It has a pale straw color and flavors of citrus, biscuits, green apple and a hint of spice. Small bubbles indicate the wine is well-crafted. Drink it with everything from potato chips and truffled popcorn to smoked salmon and foie gras. Buy it at: Martin Wine Cellar and Faubourg Wines. Drink it at: Mr. B's Bistro and Little Gem Saloon.

2012 Donnafugata Anthilia
Sicily, Italy
Retail $11-$16
The woman in flight depicted on the label and for whom the winery is named is Queen Maria Carolina, wife of King Ferdinand IV, who fled her native Naples, Italy, ahead of conquering Napoleon in the early 1800s. She took up residence in Sicily on the estate of this winery, preferring to live in obscurity rather than be a subject of the emperor. Bathed in warm Mediterranean light, the estate produces rich and voluptuous fruit. Anthilia is the Roman name of the city of Entella, and today it also refers to the entire winegrowing region. This was one of the first wines produced by the export powerhouse Donnafugata. The main grape is the catarratto, the most widely planted grape in Sicily, which adds citrusy notes. Minor grapes make up the remainder of the blend for Anthilia, but catarratto gives the wine most of its character. The wine touches no wood and most of the vinification process is completed in cold conditions to preserve freshness. Drink it with light pasta dishes, barbecue shrimp and grilled scallops. Buy it at: Whole Foods Market on North Broad Street, Vieux Carre Wine & Spirits, Dorignac's and Acquistapace's Covington Supermarket. Drink it at: Cibugnu, The Italian Barrel, Vincent's Italian Cuisine Uptown, Allegro Bistro, Cafe Giovanni, Brick Oven Cafe, Ristorante Del Porto and Gio's Villa Vancheri.

2013 Bieler Pere et Fils Rose
Aix en Provence, France
Retail $11-$13
This rich blend's varietal grapes each come from a different vineyard in the French countryside of Coteaux d'Aix en Provence. The rose takes its main smoky but soft cue from syrah (55 percent) and gets its backbone from cabernet sauvignon (25 percent). The other grapes include grenache (15 percent), cinsault (5 percent) and rolle (3 percent). Winemaker Charles Bieler's almost 20 years in the wine industry are not wasted with this effort, an homage to his father, Philippe, and sister, Mira. Also honored is Charles' daughter Sabine, born 1995, the year of the wine's inaugural vintage. The grapes reach the press within two hours of picking, leaving little time for skin contact. No wood is used in the fermentation process and the winemaker opted for a light, layered style. The results are bright, fresh flavors of strawberry and cherry, as well as some chocolate notes buried in the syrah-cabernet combination. Drink it with shrimp remoulade, salmon and salads. Buy it at: The Wine Seller, Swirl Wine Bar and Market, Faubourg Wines, Whole Foods Market on Magazine and North Broad streets. Drink it at: Antoine's, Sylvain, NOLA, Three Muses, Lucky Rooster, Loa, Cowbell, The Delachaise and Louisiana Pizza Kitchen.

2013 Protea Chenin Blanc
Western Cape, South Africa
Retail $16-$19
Vineyards on South Africa's Western Cape are subject to a multitude of geographic and meteorological influences. The terrain is mountainous, ranging to 7,000 feet in height, and it is bordered by both the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Chenin blanc, a grape associated with France's Loire Valley, thrives here and the grape is used in a multitude of wines, including this 100 percent chenin blanc as well as white blends and sparkling wines. For this bottling, the juice ages three months on its lees and cold fermentation occurs in stainless steel. The wine offers the grape's characteristic flavors of lemon, honeysuckle and pear. Drink it with mussels, sushi, chicken salad and boiled crawfish. Buy it at: Swirl Wine Bar and Market, W.I.N.O., Kiefe & Co. and Whole Foods Market in Metairie. Drink it at: Le Foret, Borgne, The Grill Room, Dominique's on Magazine, Hotel Monteleone and Cafe Lynn.

2012 J. Portugal Ramos Lima Vinho Verde
Retail $11
At the point where northern Portugal meets the Galicia region of Spain, the Loureiro area produces elegant, fruit-forward, captivating vinho verde wines. Vineyards proliferate along the Lima River's banks, with the breezes allowing the vines to cool in the evening. "Vinho verde" is a descriptor used to indicate a young wine. Sometimes the wines exhibit a spritzy character, indicative that malolactic fermentation has taken place and may still be happening. Fruit for these wines usually is grown high off the ground, which allows for other fruits or vegetables to grow underneath. The wine undergoes cold fermentation and touches no oak, resulting in flavors of lemon grass, white tea, minerality and Mediterranean herbal notes. The low-alcohol wine is good as an aperitif or an accompaniment to lighter dishes. Buy it at: Swirl Wine Bar and Market. Drink it at: Le Pavillon Hotel.

2012 Sean Minor Four Bears Pinot Noir
Central Coast, California
Retail $13-$15
Pinot noir is such a particular grape that even a difference of a couple vine rows can alter the complexion of the wine. Pinot noirs from the Central Coast of California are typically denser and blacker than those from Oregon or California's Russian River. The grapes for this wine were sourced from various sites, harvested at optimum ripeness, destemmed and placed in open-top stainless steel fermenters. After fermentation, the wine was racked to oak for aging. Its flavors of cherry, raspberry and strawberry are hallmarks of pinot noir, but there are also earth and tobacco qualities, which are associated with bigger, bolder reds. The oaky finish is pronounced because pinot noir can take a big hit of wood, and there's a final blast of acidity. Drink it with rosemary chicken, duck tamales, grilled tuna and salmon. Buy it at: Swirl Wine Bar and Market and Dorignac's. Drink it at: Mizado.

2012 Stadt Krems Gruner Veltliner
Kremstal, Austria
Retail $15-$17
The Kremstal, awarded its own denomination of origin in 2007, is adjacent to the vaunted Wachau region in Austria. Cool, humid breezes, a Wachau trademark, blend with warm, dry winds from the east, which contribute to the Kremstal's longer growing seasons. Gruner veltliner, normally a short-season, cool-weather grape, benefits here by developing more complicated, layered textures due to longer hang times and warmer soils. The winery dates to the 1200s and now is owned by a municipality. In the Kremstal, gruner veltliner, the main grape variety for Austria, takes a backseat to riesling and chardonnay, but this gruner is special. White currants, citrus and stone fruit characteristics come together, providing a clean, refreshing wine. It has a low 12.5 percent alcohol content, but its acidic character enhances its appeal in pairing with food. Drink it with spicy Thai and Asian dishes, broiled seafood or fried soft-shell crab. Buy it at: Elio's Wine Warehouse, Hopper's Carte des Vins and W.I.N.O. Drink it at: The Pelican Club, Peche Seafood Grill, Cochon, Emeril's Delmonico, Canal Street Bistro and The Tasting Room.

2013 Gaia Rose Agiorgitiko
Retail $18
This rose is made from the most widely planted red grape in Greece. The wine spends only 18 hours on its skins after harvest, leaving the juice a cool pink color and offering aromas of strawberry, watermelon and a hint of sea salt. The flavors carry through from the bouquet, and the watermelon facets take on a hard-candy quality. The wine is very dry, devoid of residual sugar, and the acid levels are well-defined. It has hints of cherry and gooseberry and at the end, minerality creeps in leaving the mouth clean. Drink it with red beans and sausage, tuna tartare, stuffed eggs and barbecued ribs. Buy it at: Pearl Wine Co. Drink it at: Atchafalaya, Byblos, The Delachaise, Green Goddess, The Tasting Room and Slice Pizzeria on Magazine Street.

2012 Santa Luz Alba Sauvignon Blanc
Central Valley, Chile
Retail $9
Chile's winemaking industry was established in the 1800s, but it was energized in the early 1970s when winemakers realized the quality of the nation's growing conditions. The Luis Felipe Edwards family has an estate larger than 2,000 acres, but it is not planted for quantity. This sauvignon blanc proves that the grape can grow in the region and reflects its innate characteristics as well as those of the region. The winery is modern in every way, and this wine touches only stainless steel, with the entire process done under ideal cold conditions. The wine offers herbal and lemon aromas and melon on the palate. Drink it with fresh seafood. Buy it at: Faubourg Wines.

NV Cote Mas Jean-Claude Mas a St. Hilaire Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose
Retail $19
In southwestern France, the region known as the Languedoc is capable of producing a variety of grapes and wine styles. Cremant is a French sparkling wine made in the methode traditionelle, which means the second fermentation occurs in the bottle. This salmon-hued wine comes from around the village of Limoux. It is a blend of 70 percent chardonnay, 10 percent pinot noir and 20 percent chenin blanc. The soft creamy mousse introduces delicate strawberry flavors, red currants, blood orange, freshly baked bread and dried herbs. One also tastes honeysuckle, citrus, grapefruit, apricot, peach and some fig. Drink it as an aperitif with a variety of dishes. Buy it at: Pearl Wine Co. Drink it at: Bayona.

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