by Roger Zotti
I taught wine for a long time and I find that people look for an understandable way to approach it, because the subject intimidates them,” said Michael Maderia, author of The Song of Wine: Music as a Metaphor for Wine. Writing his book was “an effort” because it meant “simplifying a massive subject that is intimidating.” So Michael used “another subject – music – that doesn’t intimidate us because we grow up with it.” He added that his musical background “is that of a lover of music. I have no professional background. I’ve played guitar and drums most of my life. But really this book isn’t written from the point of view of a music or wine expert. It’s written by someone whose favorite moments in life – well, music and wine have been a big part of those moments. And I found they go together really well.”
A Certified Sommelier, Michael has worked in hospitality for twenty-five years. In the 1980s, he said, “I took over the dining-room management at Flood Tide Restaurant at The Inn at Mystic and we had a pretty good wine list written by a purveyor. But there was no one on staff who understood wine.” So he educated himself and researched wine “pretty much the way someone would write a term paper – by studying and investigating and making sense of the subject.” And he hasn’t stopped learning and teaching: “I was an inn-keeper for twenty-five years and have taught wine both to wait staff and dinner classes.”
How and where does one start with wine? I mean, I suppose I have to pay big bucks for a bottle of “quaffable” red or white. “No!”Michael said. “This book recommends a procedure exactly for that.” Of the five thousand grapes used to produce wine, Michael suggests learning eight of them – “and I list the eight in the book. Once you learn the eight and reach a comfort level with them, after that you can begin to explore elsewhere.”
Here’s what Michael – who now works as a sommelier at a private golf club in Rhode Island – hopes readers take away from his book: “As we choose the music of our lives, we learn to understand what we enjoy. We love the music that’s part of our lives.” It’s the same with wine. “There’s this worry in wine drinkers they’re supposed to taste and enjoy what someone else likes – and that’s not the case. I’d be happy if people realized that their own favorite wines should be their own favorites.”
Reaction to the book has been good, though Michael admitted “it’s not a subject that will ever be a best-seller. It’s a specialized subject. The people who have enjoyed it – especially young people new to wine – have found it helpful.”
Michael Maderia took a diverse and daunting subject and – in clear, often lyrical prose – demystified it and made it exciting and enjoyable. His metaphoric technique demonstrates his knowledge, passion and appreciation for wine and music. The Song of Wine is a marvelous introduction to wine.
So, folks, forget what Miles, Paul Giamatti’s character in the film Sideways, said about Merlot and instead let’s treat ourselves to a glass.