The “Oblong Tasting” at Sotto Restaurant in Los Angeles was one of the best wine nights I have attended.  Formatted around the infamous, wise-cracking personality that is “Lou”, and guided by Sotto’s resident Wine Geeks, Jeremy and Rory, it was a night of discussion and tasting centered around a handful of Italy’s “natural” wines.

Within the first ten minutes, glasses of Murgo Sparkling Rose in hand, references were made to Boccaccio, pop psychology and epistemological truths.  This is my kind of party.

The “tasting” itself wasn’t so much the usual static, guided tasting.  There was no uni-directional imparting of information.  It was a friendly discussion, really.  An Anti-Tasting, or as the good people of Sotto like to call it, an Oblong Table.  One of the first things to strike me was Jeremy’s comparison of natural wines to obscenity- hard to define, but you know it when you see (taste) it.

The concept of “Natural” wines is understandably difficult for most American consumers.  I believe this is because most of them have no idea how completely un-natural their favorite wines really are.

Between the blatant use of additives, coloring, sugars, and flavors, and then processes which physically and chemically break down, and then systematically put-back together-again most commercially made wine, some of these wine “products” would be better classified next to coca-cola than traditional, artisanally-fermented wine.

And the worst part?  Government agencies, which usually cannot wait to impart some kind of regulation and labeling process for food and beverage products, do not require that this information be made available to you.  You, the person putting this stuff in your mouth.

Think that glass of red wine is just fermented grape juice?  Maybe you should think again.

No wine drinker wants to be told what they can and cannot drink.  However, I would argue that most of us would like to know what we’re drinking.  Until the murky waters of “natural” wine become more clearly defined, the best thing we can do is ask a lot of questions.  Which is why I love events like Sotto’s Oblong Table.

Tastings like this give the people who care, the ability and platform to be curious, to share information, and while they’re at it, to enjoy a fabulous glass of wine.