I Thee Wed ... But Not Your Wine How nat­u­ral wine solved our mar­riage’s one big prob­lem

Food & Wine - - BOTTLE SERVICE - By Joel Stein

I HEADED DOWN TO OUR CEL­LAR to get a white Bur­gundy to go with the sal­mon, but my lovely wife, Cas­san­dra, yelled out that she felt like a red. Fine, sure, I could grab a Beau­jo­lais. A week later, she wanted red with shrimp. And then trout. In des­per­a­tion, I bought Zweigelts, Schi­avas, Al­sa­tian Pinot Noirs, even a red Sancerre, a wine that I’m pretty sure only ex­ists for my pre­cise predica­ment. “I’m all for hav­ing some white wine,” Cas­san­dra would say, get­ting my hopes up, be­fore adding: “As long as I can have red wine af­ter, with din­ner.” But I love white wine. And while “white with fish” may be an old cliché, some­times red with fish is horrible. Try drink­ing Caber­net with mack­erel. It’s like lick­ing a hand­ful of old pen­nies. The sit­u­a­tion got so bad that I con­sid­ered buy­ing red food col­or­ing.

Ev­ery white wine was prob­lema­tized. Ch­ablis was “too syrupy” and “thick,” Ries­lings “too sweet”

ex­cept with a cheese plate. All Chenin Blancs were “goopy.” As much as I searched, I could not find a mar­riage coun­selor who spe­cial­ized in wine pair­ings.

Luck­ily, I found the equiv­a­lent: Lou Am­dur. His tiny Los An­ge­les wine shop (louwineshop.com) is so fun that my 9-year-old son asks to go there. In­stead of or­ga­niz­ing wines by re­gion, his sec­tions (writ­ten in re­frig­er­a­tor mag­net let­ters) have in­cluded “Spaghetti!” and “Net­flix & Chill.” He is a mad ge­nius, one with a new in­sane project in the works ev­ery time I see him. Once, he pulled out be­spoke hand pup­pets and voiced them as el­derly, Jewish wine ex­perts. He planned to use them in In­sta­gram videos. He’s a guy you can talk to with­out wor­ry­ing about if you’ll be judged.

Lou lis­tened to me and sug­gested some nat­u­ral wines, which he spe­cial­izes in. I got a slightly ox­i­dized white from the Jura, an orange wine from Slove­nia, and a straight-up white from the Loire. Cas­san­dra dug them, even agree­ing to drink them with food. Lou had saved me from go­ing on Tin­der to swipe for women who love Gavi di Gavi.

But I wasn’t com­pletely happy. Be­cause I don’t love nat­u­ral wines. I of­ten find those cloudy wines with hip­ster line draw­ings on the la­bel to be more in­ter­est­ing than de­li­cious. I now felt forced to choose be­tween good reds and weird whites. We needed an­other coun­sel­ing ses­sion.

Sens­ing the se­ri­ous­ness of the sit­u­a­tion, Lou agreed to come over for din­ner with his wife, New York Times film critic Manohla Dar­gis. I made a len­til and root vegetable stew, since she’s a veg­e­tar­ian, and be­cause it seemed like the kind of food that went with hip­pie wines. Lou also sug­gested a stinky washed-rind cheese, a sour blue cheese, a flaky sheep milk cheese, and a plate of pick­les. This seemed like a ma­jor home field ad­van­tage for nat­u­ral wines, but Lou said a roast chicken could work, too. I liked his con­fi­dence.

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