Passion on the Vine By Sergio Esposito
Wine, according to Galileo is "sunlight, held together with water". Words as delicious as good wine. Sergio Esposito knows this well and has been sharing his passion and knowledge with his customers in his New York wine shop, Italian Wine Merchants, since 1999. Passion on the Vine is a memoir, not only entertaining, but very educational.
This man has the dream job – he spends three months of the year in Italy visiting wineries, purchasing for his shop, and the rest of the year in New York City working in his shop on Union Square.
Even the less exclusive wine shops in New York City have an exceptional selection of wines compared to our choice in Ontario, the land of wine poverty.
This is also an inspirational story - encouragement to do what you love.
Sergio Esposito knew from before he was a teenager that he didn't want to live his life as if he'd been "lobotomized".
When he observed the parents of his friends he saw people who were "chained to a life in which they ate a meal made with Hamburger Helper every Wednesday."
He knew this was not for him, and he knew that it was in food and wine that he found stimulation.
He also felt that "Americans, raised on a mix of puritanical restraint and hamburgers, may think food only nourishment, and wine only intoxication, but Europeans consider food and wine the stuff of life, worthy of attention and study. I was working with that approach." This found him a job working as a waiter and then a sommelier at San Domenico in Manhattan where he learned how to "create an astounding experience for the diner through the correct combination of flavours."
Sergio knew that more than anything he wanted to share his passion with others, and felt that at this time there was not enough knowledge or availability of Italian wines in the United States.
He set out to change that, signing a lease on a shop. Before opening on his own however, he was convinced to join forces with chef Mario Batali, and his partner Joseph Bastianich, owners of the restaurant Babbo, and now many others, in New York. This partnership has continued since the opening of Italian Wine Merchants in 1999.
Sergio Esposito was born in Naples but has lived in New York since he was six years old.
Full of family history
His memoir is full of family history - this large and extended, and very entertaining, family is mostly still living in the Naples area. The anecdotes about his family add immeasurably to the story of Sergio's professional life.
Primarily, however, we learn a great deal about wine while reading this memoir. We learn about how wine is made in the traditional way in various parts of Italy, and how this affects the taste of the wine.
I found it especially interesting how wines can be considered fashionable or unfashionable; that the popularity of a particular taste, can determine what is produced, and how the wine makers can be seduced into changing their production to suit a current taste.
Variety of taste
This, of course, results in less variety of taste and fewer choices. Sergio Esposito is very passionate about encouraging wineries to continue to produce the good traditional wines that they always have, and not to be swayed by current trends.
"Variety is the spice of life" is a tired old saying but it is so true - the exhilaration of tasting an unfamiliar wine with a great meal is something worth living for.
The descriptions of the meals consumed by Sergio Esposito and those who share his table are often both simple and spectacular - and as delicious as this very tasty memoir by a man who loves his food and wine.