May marks the 10th month of the virtual Wine Book Club.  The subject of this month’s WBC is Passion on the Vine – A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Family in the Heart of Italy written by Sergio Espisito.  In addition to penning a fantastic memoir of his Italian wine journey, Espisito is also Founder of Italian Wine Merchantspassiononvine

I found Sergio’s life, as outlined in the book, fascinating and enviable.  In my initial quick pass through the book, I got the impression, given all of his experiences, that this was the memoir of a man nearing the sunset of his life.  On a more thorough look, I was shocked to learn that Esposito is only in his early 40’s (if my math is correct). 

As with many memoirs, Espisito’s began with his earliest memories and those family members who had a significant impact on the person he is today.  One of the early chapters chronicles his move from ‘home’ in Naples, Italy to Albany, NY at the age of six.  The chapter includes descriptions of the culture shock he and his family experienced after the relocation to the US – bland foods and challenges of being the ‘different’ kid in school. 

Although there is nothing overly unique about Espisito’s early years, it’s clear how those years set the stage for the successful entrepreneur he is today.  I was struck by how conscious he was at an early age – he seemed to fear being part of the routine and rut of daily life as many of the strangers that he noticed.  To avoid ending up “meting out days as though I [he] were lobotomized,” Espisito decided to consciously create his life by exercising his senses constantly by focusing on the feel, touch, smell and taste of food and the things around him.  (more of us should ‘wake up’)    

As the book progresses, each chapter provides an intriguing and sometimes comical portrait of the various characters Sergio has met throughout his time in Italy.  I appreciate the fact that Passion on the Vine provides detailed insight in to the story and people behind the wines he imports.

I noticed several parallels with a previous Wine Book Club selection, Kermit Lynch’s Adventures on the Wine Route, who is also an author, wine shop owner and importer.  In particular, they both attempt to dispel the myth that the life of an importer is all glamour – traveling the world, tasting countless wines each day, dining at the finest restaurants, and hobnobbing with remarkable wine makers.  I’m sure the life of an importer isn’t sun and roses all the time, but I must admit that I definitely envy these guys, especially Espisito who spends several months each year in Italy.

My take aways…

  • Reminded of the old proverb of respecting your elders, especially the ones you have respect for (p. 258).  Thanks for the reminder.
  • Drink more Italian wine!
  • The life of an importer can be pretty damn good!