30 Second Wine Advisor: How simple is that?

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In This Issue

 How simple is that?
How much information do you really need on the front label? These two wines pass the minimalist test.
 Casa Liliana 2005 "Good Chianti" ($9.99)
Lightweight but fruity and tart, this modest red isn't a great Chianti, but it's ... well, you know.
 Casamatta 2004 Toscana ($15.99)
Tart-cherry fruit, anise and earth. On the simple side but appealing and fresh, a very good food wine.
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 This week on WineLoversPage.com
A thoughtful column on large-format bottles in restaurant service, and a poll invites you to tell us about the largest bottle you've tried. Next week's Internet radio TalkShoe moves on to Part Two on German wine; and on our forum, we're trying to sort out what's wrong (or what's right) with low-end mass-market wines like Yellow Tail.
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How simple is that?

How much information do you really need on a wine's front label?

The other day, browsing a local wine shop, I spotted a label on the shelf that takes minimalism about as far as it can go: In simple black letters centered on a plain white background, it read:



Wine just doesn't get much more simple than that, and if you're shopping for the basics and not interested in wine-geek complexity or nuance today, this label may just tell you everything you really need to know.

Just down the shelf from the Good Chianti, another label looked just about as basic, featuring only an abstract design with the name of the wine and the vintage at lower left:



In both cases, the curious wine shopper who wants to learn more can get information by the simple expedient of turning the bottle around and reading the smaller print on the back of the bottle. Good Chianti, as it turns out, is a simple 2005 Chianti made by Casa Liliana in the Tuscan village of Figline Valdarno south of Florence.

Casamatta (which translates, literally, as "Crazy House") is a Toscana IGT, a Chianti-like Tuscan wine made predominantly from Sangiovese, one of the lower-price wines in the portfolio of artist-turned wine maker Bibi Graetz in Fiesole, just northeast of Florence.

The secret of the simple label, as we've discussed occasionally before, is a quirk of wine-label law: As long as all the legally required information is on the bottle somewhere, regulatory authorities like the U.S. Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau don't really care if it's on the front or the back of the bottle.

As far as the front label goes, these two wines easily pass the minimalist test.

Casa Liliana 2005 "Good Chianti" ($9.99)

Good Chianti

Dark ruby, reddish-violet glints against the light. Spicy black cherries and a whiff of brown sugar. Light-bodied, juicy tart-cherry fruit and zippy acidity. Decent food wine, simple and fresh and mouth-wateringly acidic. Not a great Chianti, but yeah, okay, I'll go along with the label: Good Chianti. U.S. importer: Viniliandia USA, Deer Isle, Maine. (Aug. 19, 2007)

FOOD MATCH: In the mood for a summer salad but needing a food match that would sing with Chianti, I came up with an Italian variation on Thai beef salad: Thin-sliced cold rare beef tossed with romaine, fresh tomatoes and basil, Vidalia onions, Gorgonzola and Pecorino cheeses and a olive oil and lemon vinaigrette.

VALUE: A good Chianti for 10 bucks? No problem!

WHEN TO DRINK: This lightweight Chianti won't fade in a year, but it's not made for the cellar. Keep it on the wine rack and enjoy it until it's gone.

The U.S. importer's Website has limited information about Casa Liliana at this link:

Look up retail vendors and compare prices for Casa Liliana's "Good" wines on Wine-Searcher.com:

Casamatta 2004 Toscana ($15.99)


Dark ruby, reddish glints. Dark cherries and kirsch cherry liqueur. Juicy and surprisingly ripe, tart-cherry fruit and a touch of anise, well shaped by bright, snappy acidity and a hint of red-clay earth. On the simple side but appealing and fresh, very good food wine. Loses much of its fruit within an hour of opening, suggesting limited aging potential. U.S. importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, N.Y. (Aug. 18, 2007)

FOOD MATCH: Couldn't ask for a better match with a char-grilled local free-range hen.

VALUE: Decent table wine, but frankly pushing the edge of value in the mid-teens.

WHEN TO DRINK: Drinking well now, but as noted, the wine's behavior in the glass, particularly with its undersize, synthetic-plastic plug, advises against cellaring. Drink soon.

Here's a fact sheet on Casamatta from the U.S. importer's Website:

Look up retail vendors for Casamatta Toscana on Wine-Searcher.com:

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Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

This week on WineLoversPage.com

Vino 101: The Bigger the Better
When most diners peruse a restaurant's wine list, they glaze over the large-format bottles. But big bottles are worth a look, Jorge Eduardo Castillo advises in "The Server's Perspective" The larger format is often more practical, economical, and beneficial to your enjoyment.

Our Internet radio "TalkShoe": German Wines, Part II
David Bueker continues his very popular series on German wines on this week's Internet Radio TalkShoe, coming up Saturday, Aug 25, at 1 p.m. US EDT (10 a.m. on the U.S. West Coast and 19:00 in Western Europe).
Last week's TalkShoe featured a wine-ranging conversation on wine-related topics. You can tune it in, along with all our archived editions, in streaming audio online. Click to listen:

WineLovers Discussion Group: What's with Yellow Tail?
Many wine enthusiasts dismiss inexpensive "pop" wines like Yellow Tail, yet these wines have a huge and faithful following. What's up with that? We try to dissect this question objectively and without snobbery in this hot topic in the WineLovers Discussion Group.

Netscape/Compuserve Community Poll: Largest bottle you've tasted from ...
Tying in with Jorge Eduardo Castillo's recent "Server's Perspective" column about the advantages of large-format wine bottles in restaurant service, we're curious about how many of you have enjoyed wines from oversize bottles. Magnum, Jeroboam or Nebuchadnezzar, we'd love to count your vote - and hear your stories - in this week's CompuServe/Netscape forum poll.

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Readers talk back (Aug. 17, 2006)

 Quick chill (Aug. 15, 2006)

 Many faces of Sauvignon Blanc (Aug. 13, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Benedictine (Aug 16, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive: