Uncorked: My Journey Through the Crazy World of Wine by Marco Pasanella (New York: Clarkson Potter, 2012. 224 pp).

Marco Pasanella is the proprietor of Pasanella and Son Vintners, which opened in south Manhattan in 2005. The shop has been included in top-ten lists in New York Magazine, Food & Wine, and Elle. He has written for Esquire, GQ, Vogue, and The New York Times.

Pretentious or Accessible?

Photo by Derek Gavey

Most often, wine is viewed as the beverage of choice for the snobby and elite. You can picture an Italian scoffing at lesser folk while he sips a nice chianti. Or worse, a Frenchman who fails to admit that any other country could possibly produce a good wine. However, as of late, wine represents the beverage of the everyman. 

Wineries give tastings to all who come in an attempt to educate people about the glorious world of wine. Myself, I was bitten by the wine bug several years back, and absolutely love the stuff. Marco Pasanella, in his memoir Uncorked, describes how he fell in love with the beverage and how he chose to open a wine shop appealing to the masses.
Marco Pasanella decided in his early forties to open a wine shop with his wife. But, unlike so many wine shops, Marco wanted to do something different. 

“Wine, I also realized early on, appeals to people who like secrets. Whether it’s hedge funders determined to be more inside than their peers or the people who like The Da Vinci Code, wine aficionados tend to like mystery. And whine seems to demand a special knowledge. But the truly devoted seek more: the want to be clued into the stories behind the labels…Think Thomas Pynchon with a little Umberto Eco thrown in. It’s a seductive brew of fact, legend, and gossip” (8).

The Mystery and Setup

Photo by Angela Rutherford

Realizing the mystery of wine, and the vast gamete of people it attracts, Marco and his wife brutally labored over the operation of their shop. Should they do something traditional, or different? The couple tried a wine library, a wine “museum”, and a handmade/homemade feel.

“I didn’t want the store to feel like a museum lesson or an elegant warehouse. I wanted it to evoke the part of my life that I remember from my summers at Villa Cannizzaro, our family’s seventeenth-century stone house in Camaiore, a small town outside of Lucca in Tuscany” (31).

Once the theme was set, the next step became supplying the wine. There is a three-tiered distribution system in New York. Officially, wine can only be sold through wholesalers in New York, which caused a problem for the small wine shop. They had to find a way to actually sell the wine. After the selling kerfuffle, with a little insider decoration help from some famous folk (Martha Stewart) and some random tips from folk that love wine (a cheese seller from a local grocery store) the wine shop became a hit. Well, it wasn’t that simple, far from it.

Why It’s Good

Photo by Andreas Levers

But, it isn’t the frantic, fast-paced evolution of his shop that makes for a good read, though the risks he and his family took financially do compel. Marco tells of the various people that came to work with them in the throes of wine-selling battle. He tells of dinner parties with ample amounts of wine. 

Marco also details, quite painstakingly, the wine making processes, the theories of what makes a good vintage (or a good vintner for that matter). As the book progresses, you’ll find yourself loving the world of wine, and lamenting alongside Marco as hard times fell across the shop. 
If you’re a complete newcomer to the world of wine, you’ll find informative tidbits that don’t come across as demeaning or pretentious (like random recipes lining the pages of the book). If, however, you’ve been a wine lover for some time, you will find the book equally accessible. Uncorked provides a spectacular journey through to the world of wine, and if you’ve been bitten by the wine bug, you’re sure to enjoy it.

 

Verdict: 4 out of 5

Have you been bitten by the wine bug? Do you love the mystery of wine? Or is it just a beverage for you? Did you enjoy Marco’s book of his tiny, yet successful wine shop? Share your thoughts below.

Posted by: Andrew Jacobson

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