The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

My personal journey through Passion on the Vine and IWM

Posted on | March 3, 2010 | Written by Kerry-Jo Rizzo | No Comments

A student of the WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) who had taken a break from wine to focus on theatre, I discovered that last fall I had an almost instinctual urge to get back into my wine studies.  Now that we’re edging into spring, I’ve been an employee of Italian Wine Merchants for about four months and have been given the great opportunity to work for a company whose specialty is Italian wine, which is to me one of the most intimidating wine-producing countries (along with France and maybe Austria).  Because of all Italy’s regions, varying climates, plethora of producers and over 2,000 varietals, I was hesitant to approach Italian wine, but I knew I had to do it.  In many ways, this hunger for knowledge was the impetus of my getting a job at IWM.

One day last autumn, I was cleaning up my apartment and from under my bed I unearthed my copy of Vino Italiano, which I had purchased three years before when I was first employed at my first real New York City restaurant job, waiting tables at an upscale Italian restaurant.  Needless to say, the book had never been opened—I couldn’t begin to understand any of the information without some kind of background knowledge of wine.  So here I was, three years later with the unread book in my hand and an itch for a major life change.  At that moment, I knew I was going to spend my winter studying and learning as much as possible about Italian wine.

While still working at that Italian restaurant, I had grown away from the restaurant business and decided to move on.  I remember the lightning speed with which I’d applied for many jobs on Craig’s List, but I didn’t remember exactly which companies I’d sent out emails and résumés to.  One day, I received a call from IWM. I remembered visiting the store two years before to buy some Recioto della Valpolicella.  I remembered how calming and rustic the décor was and how naturally hospitable the people working there were.  Above all, I remembered the informative, relaxing experience and how completely different the world inside IWM was from the city outside.

The store left a lasting impression and when I first received that call to interview for IWM, I was elated.  I already had the instinct of wanting to get a handle on Italian wine, plus I had found my Vino Italiano, which I was ready to dive into.  After having my interview and landing the job, I discovered the weirdest coincidence: two of Sergio Esposito’s previous partners had written the book that I was longing to learn from. Now I could do more than just study the book; I could spend my whole winter with the entire Italian culture at my fingertips.

Naturally, I began my studies learning from all of my new coworkers and reading Vino Italiano.  Since then I have moved on to a few other wine reads, but the most influential book would be Passion on the Vine, by IWM’s owner Sergio Esposito.  For the next three weeks, I will be reviewing the book as I continue to read it, sharing with you my own discoveries and understandings about wine’s meanings, its beauties and its place in our lives.  Hopefully you will learn with me as you continue to read my series of blogs this month.  If possible, pick up a copy and join me in a virtual book club!


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