As a young child in Naples, Italy, Sergio Esposito sat at his kitchen table observing the daily ritual of his large, loud family bonding over fresh local dishes and simple country wines. While devouring the rich bufala mozzarella, still sopping with milk and salt, and the platters of fresh prosciutto, sliced so thin he could see through it, he absorbed the profound relationship of food, wine, and family in Italian culture.
Growing up in Albany, New York, after emigrating there with his family, he always sat next to his uncle Aldo and sipped from his wineglass during their customary hours-long extended family feasts. Thus, from a very early age, Esposito came to associate wine with the warmth of family, the tastes of his mother’s cooking—and, above all, memories of his former life in Italy. When he was in his twenties, he headed for New York and undertook a career in wine, beginning a journey that would culminate in his founding of Italian Wine Merchants, now the leading Italian wine source in America. His career offered him the opportunity to make frequent trips back to Italy to find wine for his clients, to learn the traditions of Italian winemaking, and, in so doing, to rediscover the Italian way of life he’d left behind.
Passion on the Vine is Esposito’s intimate and evocative memoir of his colorful family life in Italy, his abrupt transition to life in America, and of his travels into the heart of Italy—its wine country—and the lives of those who inhabit it. The result is a remarkably engaging and entertaining wine/travel narrative replete with vivid portraits of seductive places—the world-famous cellars of Piedmont, the sweeping estates of Tuscany, the lush fields of Campania, the chilly hills of Friuli, the windy beaches of Le Marche; and of memorable people, diverse and vibrant wine artisans—from a disco-dancing vintner who bases his farming on the rhythm of the moon to an obsessive prince who destroys his vineyards before his death so that his grapes will never be used incorrectly.
Esposito’s luscious accounts of the wonderful food and wine that are so much a part of Italian life, and his poignant and often hilarious stories of his relationships with his family and Italian friends, make Passion on the Vine an utterly unique and enchanting work about Italy and its eternally seductive lifestyle.
“Without qualification, the best book about Italian wine today, if only because Sergio Esposito understands that its mysterious greatness is in its poetry—the earth, its diurnal magic, the ghosts of great-grandfathers. A beautiful, boldly sentimental memoir.”
“Passion on the Vine is a spellbinding memoir; a vivid, funny, and, yes, passionate tale of family, food, and wine. The tour de force chapter on his childhood in Naples will make your wish you were Italian. Sergio Esposito is not only a great epicurean—he’s also a great storyteller. If he ever gets tired of selling wine he’s got a bright future as a writer.”
“Esposito’s glass is always half-full, when not filled to the brim, and always with something beautifully red and swirling and passionate, as are his words in this wine-adventure, story-memoir. His words are like the vines he so ardently writes about—earthy, deep-rooted; and the wines—perfect on the tongue, with a long finish.”
“Do not read this book on an empty stomach….A charming tribute to food, drink, and homeland.”