When I was a student in Italy in my early twenties, I ate twice a day in a university cafeteria, where 3,000 lire (roughly $2) got you a pasta or rice first course (usually topped with tomato sauce or tomato and meat sauce), a second course of fish or meat with a side of vegetables, a piece of bread, a small dessert, and one small glass of wine — white or red.
Like any red-blooded American college student, I had done my share of drinking. At that age, wine and (mostly) beer were a sine qua non component of adolescent socialization. And their sole purpose was inebriation: I can’t remember an instance when my companions or I stopped to say, wow, this beer is really hoppy! or this Chardonnay is really well balanced! (you get the picture and if you’re reading this, you’ve probably been there yourself).
And so when I first started eating at the university cafeteria, I was impressed by the fact that wine was served at lunch and dinner. Of course, the quantity wasn’t sufficient to “catch a buzz” or “get your drink on.” The serving size was just enough to allow the gentle alcohol in the wine to stimulate the acids in your stomach and the acidity to give you a jump start in digesting your food.