Patricia Savoie, selling the wines of the world

bnfb01sm Big Nose, Full Body is celebrating its fifth year serving the Park Slope area of Brooklyn. Patricia Savoie started a new chapter in her life by purchasing the shop two years ago after a life-changing event: she lost her job.

Pat, a veteran of several large corporations including McKinsey, Nabisco, Cablevision and most recently IBM, specialized in strategy and marketing in her corporate life and contributed to IBM’s shift toward consulting and away from hardware. Ultimately, after several restructurings of the e-commerce consulting group, Pat was let go on September 10, 2001. She didn’t think her life could get any worse.

The trauma that New York and America felt that September left Pat doing some soul searching. She decided, as many Americans did after that fall, to pursue her passion. In this case wine had brought her much joy throughout her life. She and her former husband had joined several wine tasting groups in the 1970s and had even co-authored a book together, The Wine Tasting Course (1978).

A friend asked her to collaborate on an article for Wine Enthusiast and Pat started to think more about wine and writing. She then wrote two stories for Wine Business Monthly. But as her severance started to reach its end, she started to think more about cash flow as well as wine. Glancing through the New York Times business opportunities listings, she saw a wine shop for sale in Brooklyn. She thought, why not?

Two months later the shop was hers. The witty name and the décor of vivid blue walls and pressed tin ceiling are thanks to the original owners, a thirty-something Canadian couple who returned to Canada when they sold the shop.

But Pat has changed almost all the wines stocked in the shop, filling the store with the wines she likes, mostly from off the beaten path. The store will not have every wine from a given region, but it will have a few wines from almost any region, including Pinotage from South Africa, wines from Turkey and Slovenia, and a 100% Xarelo white from Spain.

“We have breadth not depth,” Pat told me on the phone recently. She currently has between 300-350 different wines, which makes for a lot of wine per square inch given that the shop is a mere 400 square feet (37 square meters). And with 80 wines under $10, free tastings on Saturdays, and occasional $5 bottles, it is a good place for readers of DrVino.com.

This selection and the service that Pat and her knowledgeable staff provide have led to a glowing write-up in the New York Sun, the Village Voice called the shop “the best neighborhood wine shop” in November 2004, and Saveur declared it their “favorite wine shop name bar none” in January 2005. “Now people in Manhattan may say ‘oh I’ve heard of that shop,'” Pat proudly proclaims.

Pat particularly likes two aspects of owning the shop: the customers and the opportunity to taste. The neighborhood feel means “we almost always have a baby stroller in the shop.” When a customer comes back to the shop and says “the wine was perfect,” she could not be more pleased. And being a good New York shop, they also deliver—free in the immediate neighborhood and for a fee elsewhere.

Being a shop owner means that wine distributors come and parade their wines in front of her on a regular basis. As a member of the trade, she also attends the numerous trade tastings in New York, always trying new wines. “My wine knowledge has increased a lot in the past two years,” she says.

But with the shop open until 9PM on weeknights and during the day on Saturday, Pat finds it difficult to keep up her wine writing—not to mention her social life.

I look forward to talking with Pat in the coming year about consumer preferences, labels, the role of critics and shelf-talkers, and wines off the beaten path among other subjects. I also look forward to watching her in action at a trade tasting. Should be fun stuff. Check back regularly.

www.bignosefullbody.com

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