An Interesting Read with a Good Italian Wine

An Immodest Proposal – Wine and Health

We received a very interesting little volume recently here at Northwestern Wine, the author being one Giovanni Morelli.   He was once – over 40 years ago – a teacher of mine and had a distinguished career in medicine in Ireland, haematology to be precise.  The title of the book is An Immodest Proposal – Wine and Health and the subtitle is The Life and Opinions of Giovanni Morelli: Physician, Gentleman. There is little enough about the life of the good doctor but there are certainly a lot of well-written opinions.  One of these, which I share, is a disdain for cringe-making wine descriptions such as “effortless authenticity and balance.” What does that mean anyway?!

Girolamo Conforti and Marie-Louise O’Murphy

The author is clearly a lover of wine, wife and life all of which come across admirably.  There is a lot of emphasis on Italy and specifically on Tuscany. There are also some excellent recommendations of wines to try.  Each chapter has its own quote from a distinguished commentator.  These range from Horace to André Simon and Benjamin Franklin to W.C Fields.  Further interest for the historian of wine is the recognition of Girolamo Conforti.  Also a doctor, he wrote “Libellus de vino mordaci” in 1570. This described  the bubbly wines of  Brescia and long antedated Dom Perignon.  Naturally, Conforti is not the idol of Champagne!

There are many colour and black-and-white photographs. One is a portrait of a rather immodest-looking naked 15-year-old Marie-Louise O’Murphy, the Franco-Irish mistress of Louis XV.  For the Irish reader there are other interesting connections.  These include early historical figures from Ireland in Argentina and the invention of the Bordeaux bottle shape by one Peter, later Pierre, Mitchell.

A Modest Proposal

With such a title I expected some reference to Jonathan Swift. Perhaps even a suggestion that a good red from Northwestern Wine could be used to wash down the “carcass of a good fat child.”  But then that was A Modest Proposal wasn’t it?!  An ideal read for those with an education in health and the sciences as the book does have some technical jargon. The author is in fact Dr Shaun McCann, Emeritus Professor of Haematology and Academic Medicine at Trinity College Dublin. Giovanni Morelli was his nom de plume.  You can find it at


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