From the department of “good morning, Sunshine!”…
Many, many moons ago, a doctoral candidate in Italian accompanied a group of visiting professors to a favorite Chinese restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. He was the only American in the group of eight or so scholars who had come from Italy to attend a conference.
When they all took their places at the round table, with a lazy Susan at its center, beer and tea were promptly ordered. But before the food order was placed, something remarkable happened.
A professor from Bologna, an older gentleman, asked whether or not wine would be served. When he learned that the establishment didn’t have any wine, he stood up and declared plaintively: “If there is no wine to be had, I cannot eat here.”
“What are you saying?” cried the chair of the Italian department, who had organized the gathering.
“If there’s no wine,” the professor from Bolgona explained matter-of-factly, “I prefer not to dine. I don’t eat unless I can have wine with my meal. Otherwise, I don’t digest well.”
The chair turned to the doctoral candidate and asked him to find a bottle of wine — as soon as humanly possible.
Those were the days before the Google (yes, it was that long ago). But somehow, the future Ph.D. tracked down a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
And all was right again.
Those were also the days before “natural wine.” And the wine proffered was hardly what the enohipsters of today would find remotely acceptable. But it was wine. And that it was wine was all that mattered.
That episode springs to mind often these days, although the name of the professor from Bologna is long forgotten.
For many young Americans who travel to Italy for the first time, the fact that Italians consider wine to be a vital metabolic component is often a revelation.
That notion was on my mind last night as I enjoyed a bottle of the reasonably priced I Pentri 2014 Fiano last night at Light Years, Houston’s most radical natural wine bar.
The oxidation and slightly cooked character on this wine would have been called out as a flaw by many wine purists. But its ripe white fruit and rich minerality on the mouth were delicious nonetheless. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Even though there’s no agreed-on definition of what natural wine is or isn’t, many would call this a natural wine: it’s organically farmed, it’s spontaneously fermented using wild yeast, and its low-intervention winemaking style makes it a compelling, even if technically flawed, expression of place.
But none of that mattered last night.
What matters to me most about wine is how it makes you feel the next day. And in my experience, the natural wines are the ones that make me feel best.
Let it suffice to say that all was right again this morning.
Have a great weekend, everyone. Drink some natural wine. You and your colon will thank me.