Cellar No. 8

Cellar 8

My new favorite wine. As a designer and newbie to the wine drinking game, I bought this bottle SOLELY on the design of the label. The price was also under $10 so I figured it was a good buy.

But does it taste good? Yeah. It does. But can I describe it like a real wine connoisseur? Not a chance.

According to Martini Republic

The Bottle:
Cellar No. 8 (Asti Winery), North Coast California, Merlot, 2001, $8.99 at Trader Joe’s

The Label:
This label is all about typography and composition. No images, no illustrations, nothing representative. Just type and its placement.

Creating compositions with words and letters is not particularly difficult. They can be used just like any other shape to construct an image. However, making a dynamic composition and keeping the text legible and semantically understandable is a bit trickier.

The unknown designer of this label manages that more difficult task very well. The ‘8′ animates the design, keeping your eye moving down and then back up, giving you first the name and then the details like the year and variety, even though the details appear above the name. Well and cleverly done! The font faces have been chosen with care – the declarative sans serif and the cursive which echos the curves of the ‘8.’ Simply put, this is good design.

The Wine:
Ah, Merlot. The classic fallen out of favor somewhat after years of being hugely trendy. These days it’s all Pinot this or that, or one of those enormous Cabernets. And the Merlot you do get is massively fruit-forward and fun. It’s not that I don’t like some of today’s trends, but the classic Merlot seems to have fallen from grace.

But what a wonderful late summer into fall wine. Round. Full. Deep ruby red. Not too dry, not too sweet. Berries – not like from a pie, but those plump fresh blackberries that have just fallen off the bush into your hand. No tannin to speak of, and yet it tastes like wine, not fruit juice. This Merlot is all those things – it’s really quite a classic version. The makers have applied their craft on this one with excellent results, eschewing the trends and sticking with the tried and true.

As you would expect from a classic Merlot, this one pairs with food tremendously. I tasted it with a strong sheep’s milk cheese and then with some spicy curried chicken. In both instances, the wine enhanced the food and the food enhanced the wine. It will probably do best with full-flavored food; it may not do as well with delicately flavored dishes.

The Final Analysis:
Both label and wine have been crafted with care and expertise, not to mention outright talent. A big win-win this week!

I bought mine at Trader Joe’s for $9.99 I think, but BevMo has it for $7.99 if you use their ClubBev discount.

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