Once in a while there is a wine book that comes along that rings true to the wine lover. The writer is passionate about wine, and usually wine and food, and conveys his or her passion and makes the reader even more passionate about the enchanting subject of wine in all its glory! Such a book was The Heartbreak Grape: A Journey in Search of the Perfect Pinot Noir by Marq de Villiers, published in 1993. This non-fiction book is bound to appeal to anyone who fell in love with the movie, Sideways or is fond of Pinot Noir. Titled the Heartbreak Grape because Pinot Noir is fickle and difficult to grow, and makes the winery owner and winemaker shed a few tears when it doesn't meet their high standards. Even in the traditional region where fine Burgundies are made, they only make really good ones three times out of every decade. Furthermore, Pinot Noir does not transplant very well. Unlike Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, there are only a few regions where remarkable Pinots are produced, Oregon being one. Written by Canadian author, de Villeirs, this little gem of a book recounts the story of Josh Jensen, who went to Burgundy to train to make Pinot Noir in the traditional way. Jensen then went to California and looked for a site that had the same type of soil as Burgundy where Pinot Noir thrives: limestone. Jensen built his winery Calera, planted his vines, grew his grapes, and made wine with love and by instinct rather than by sophisticated technology. Along the way you learn about grape-growing, wine-making, and the ups and downs of trying to tame a diva of a grape.
But I digress. I really want to share with you my latest favourite read, Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of food, Wine, Family in the Heart of Italy, by Sergio Esposito, published in 2008. No I don't think Sergio is Phil's brother...maybe cousin. Sergio was born in Naples, Italy and immigrated to New York in the 70's with his family. He originally trained to be a chef but ended up in the wine importing business in New York City. From there, he and his brother traveled regularly to the various regions of Italy (the famous northern region of Piedmont, the sweeping estates of Tuscany, the lush fields of Campania, the chilly hills of Friuli, etc.) to taste and buy wine, encountering traditional wine makers, biodynamic fanatics, as well as modern technocrats. And in addition to learning about Italian wine, you learn lots about family, Italy, food, passion, and life. Like Marq de Villiers, Sergio Esposito is a skilled writer who not only can write about wine in an engaging way, he can spread his passion and joie de vie with you. He is so contagious! This, like the Heartbreak Grape, is a Must Read for anyone who sort of likes wine and more. I found it in my local (Richmond, BC) library. Frances Mayer salutes the author by writing, "Esposito's glass is always half-full, when not filled to the brim, and always with something beautifully red and swirling and passionate, as re his words in this wine-adventure, story-memoir, deep-rooted; and the wines--perfect on the tongue, with a long finish." Not only is Esposito a great wine-lover and epicurean, he is a great story-teller. He makes you wish you were in the wine business and Italian!
Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of food, Wine, Family in the Heart of Italy, by Sergio Esposito, published in 2008. A full-bodied book with lots of complexity and a delicious finish!