Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review - Uncorked by Marco Pasanella

Marco Pasanella runs a wine shop in New York City.  In an earlier post, I wrote about a visit I made after Hurricane Sandy and reviewed three proprietary wines that Marco selects from Italy.  I learned about his shop when I stumbled across his book while doing some competitive research for a book I have been working on for a while.  My heart missed a few beats when I read the previews of this one: Marco's story comes from a similar perspective: bemused, sometimes befuddled, occasionally aggravated observer of the weird and wonderful world of wine.

Marco's previous world was focused on interior design, very successfully.  He and his wife bought a building and then lost their tenant.  The ensuing search for a solution led him to wine retail.  As an outsider, he carried the typical delusions of life in the wine business: he wanted to taste good wine, travel and find more.
Reality stepped up pretty quickly and knocked him around a bit.  Sharing tales of learning lessons the hard way initially had me enjoying his comeuppance.  I have seen, all too often, people leap blindly into the wine world, ignoring advice and acting like they know better than long-time professionals, only to discover how messy and challenging the world of selling wine can be.  Eventually, he admitted mistakes and lack of understanding and I swung fully around to rooting for his success.
There is no better example than when he placed his Ferrari in the middle of the shop, saying it "symbolized a carefree, dolce vita dream."  Life must be good if owning a Ferrari is carefree.  Later, he had to sell the car to "shore up our finances," and thought about "another crowd-pleasing store fixture.  But not another slick sports car.  The world had changed.  I had changed."  You'll enjoy the journey that gets him to that revelation.
The layout of the book is brilliant, with each chapter explaining a step in the process of growing grapes and making wine that relate to what is happening in his story.  He includes some interesting recipes as well.
I have minor quibbles with some of his descriptors and some of the information included in the appendices but nothing substantial enough to dissuade anyone from reading this engaging tale.
It reads more as a story or bio than a wine book.
There may be revelations for some readers about the way wine business is conducted but I wanted more.  [Fortunately for the prospect of my book being published, he does not go as deep or share as many stories as I do].  His naivete about the wine business proved appealing rather than revealing.
He spends a lot of time on Italian wine which may lose some readers.  Stick with it.
I suppose my biggest gripe as someone who toiled in the trenches of the wine industry for so long is that he keeps waxing poetic about doing what you love but then hires people to handle most of the actual day to day running of the shop.  Maybe that's just sour grapes on my part.
Pull a cork (I recommend Pasanella & Son wines if you can get some), pour a glass and enjoy the book.
Available at the usual outlets.

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