By Rory Winston
“All due respect professor, but if you’re telling me it’s impossible to explain a layman the area of physics you’re specialized in then you obviously have a very poor understanding of your field.” The older professor gaped, tuned a bit crimson and walked off, while my friend who made the comment, shrugged and went on to complete his studies in science and get a lucrative position at CERN. As for me, I would always remember if a certain concept seemed too difficult to explain – at least on a basic level – then ‘the fault, dear Brutus, was not in our stars’ but in our overestimation of our own expertise.
Being a sommelier is demanding; but the criteria for being a good one is simple. Your choice of words are there to help explain the quality of a wine rather than obfuscate it with erudite terminology. Though New York is rife with self-proclaimed connoisseurs who merrily toss around adjectives such as ‘buttery, toasty, foxy, and round”, it does not take long to discover the dissonance between the imaginary vintage whose bouquet is being described and the bottle of glorified vinegar being paraded in a flask. That this ‘swirl, sniff and sneer social set’ exists at all attests to the fact that in today’s world of ‘Vino’ there is, unfortunately, very little left in the way of ‘Veritas’. That is, of course, unless you’ve stumbled into In Vino, one of the least pretentious but most discerning Italian restaurant-cum-wine bars in all of the city.
Entering In Vino, one gets the overwhelming sensation of having wondered into a cavern in Castelcivita that has been converted into a wine cellar/eatery. The concave walls, romantic lighting, intimate tables and woody feel raise expectations that the 13th century poet, Cavalcanti, will appear from the corner of the bar and begin to recite a canzone. But what fills one’s mouth is so rewarding that it hardly matters that words are abandoned. Here, Bruschetta di Funghi rhymes perfectly with Citrus marinated kale, grilled calamari and olives. As for the Carciofi alla Giudea, it is a starter whose refrain lingers long enough to make even the forthcoming porcini ravioli with truffle cream sauce and homemade trenette with sautéed shrimp seem like part of a 15th century ballata.
In terms of wine, all twenty regions of Italy are represented in what amounts to over 200 different wines. So whether you are looking for a Sicilian Rosso to go with the Ossobuco alla Milanese or a Calabrian blanco to accompany your Branzino, it’s easy to understand what Ovid, the Roman poet, once wrote: “it warms the blood, adds luster to the eyes, and wine and love have ever been allies.”
215 E 4th St.
New York, NY 10009