Category Archives: Book Reviews

Corkscrew: The highly improbable, but occasionally true, tale of a professional wine buyer

Corkscrew: The highly improbable, but occasionally true, tale of a professional wine buyer by Peter Stafford-Bow is a screamingly funny and indeed high improbable story. While you may not pick up any tips on how to improve your tasting technique or learn the difference between Old World and New World Cabernet you will both cringe and laugh out loud at the highjinks Stafford-Bow’s protagonist gets up to.

Corkscrew: The highly improbable, but occasionally true, tale of a professional wine buyer by [Stafford-Bow, Peter]

When I started Corkscrew I was not quite sure where it was going or if I were going to like the journey. However I was quickly sucked into the madcap adventure.

Stafford-Bow’s protagonist stumbles into the wine buying profession after getting kicked out of school and is soon embroiled in a series of hilarious misadventures. From shady wine deals, running afoul of several criminal organizations, and almost getting eaten on safari; just when you think he can’t get himself into a more ridiculous situation he manages to do it.

Whether you are a wine professional, a budding oenophile, you just like a tipple now and then, or none of the above Corkscrew is a highly enjoyable read.

Wine: A Tasting Course

Wine: A Tasting Course by Marnie Old is a great primer if you’re interested in learning about the finer nuances of wine and wine tasting.

While Old covers a variety of wine styles, the major wine regions of Europe, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa she distinguishes her book from others of similar topic. Chapters such as Browsing and Buying, Pouring and Storing, Matching Food and Wine make her book stand out.

While not as intensely detailed as some other books, what I love the most about Old’s Wine: A Tasting Course is the colorful, easy to read presentation. There’s no prerequisite reading for this book. Old has written it in language easy to follow by the most novice wine lover. Information is mostly presented in bright graphics; making this especially useful for visual learners.

As the book’s subtitle, Every Class in a Glass claims there are self-guided tasting instructions. Old goes beyond see, sniff, and swirl. She suggests wines to try and compare and contrast along with tips about what aromas, flavors, and mouthfeels to be on the lookout for in each of them.

Wine: A Tasting Course is a great way for new oenophiles to get started!

The Sommelier Prep Course

The Sommelier Prep Course by Michael Gibson is fantastic reading whether you’re preparing to be a sommelier or if you simply want a deeper understanding about wine and where it comes from.

In this book Gibson provides an overview of the history of wine and the arts of both viticulture and viniculture. He details some of the most common grape varieties, takes the reader through a quick tasting and sensory analysis course, and gives helpful information about wine and food pairing.

All of this great information precedes what to me was the gold mine in The Sommerlier Prep Course in which Gibson delves into the wines of the major wine-producing countries of both the Old and New World. Each chapter here goes in depth into a country’s wine history, climate zones, wine laws, top regions, grapes specific to each region and more. Aided by charts and ‘how to read a wine label’ illustrations these are great chapters.

The Sommelier Prep Course is not an accidental title for the book. The end of each chapter includes a quiz to test how well you absorbed the knowledge. Gibson also doesn’t stop with just wine. The book includes chapters on beer, brewing, sake, mead, cider, spirits, alcohol service, and handling. This is a full service sommelier prep course book.

Of the wine education books I’ve read this has been a favorite and I know I will continue to use it as a reference for a good long time.

Uncorking the Caucasus

Uncorking the Caucasus by Dr. Matthew Horkey and Charine Tan. Part wine guide, part travel guide, Uncorking the Caucasus takes you through highlights of wine history and the industry in Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey.

As the founders of Exotic Wine Travel Horkey and Tan are no strangers to wine produced in some of the world’s less famous wine regions. While more of an overview than in-depth research, their hard work, enthusiasm, and love for these often ignored wine countries is both obvious and delightful.

As a foreigner living in Turkey I both appreciate and applaud their efforts on the book’s Turkey section. Wine tourism in this country is a difficult undertaking and the information they provide is accurate and helpful.

My favorite part of Uncorking the Caucasus is the tasting notes. Horkey and Tan, who review wine on their YouTube channel, provide notes about some of the wines they experienced in these countries. If you’re a novice to the region then the wines they reviewed are a good place to start your own love affair with wines from the Caucasus!

Uncorking the Caucasus is the first book by this dynamic team and I’m very much looking forward to their next books!

Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine

Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack is my go-to wine reference book. From the founders of winefolly.com (incidentally Wine Folly is my go-to wine blog!) this book lays out in clear language and charts everything you need to get your wine education started.

With information easily digestible to the budding oenophile, Puckette and Hammack take the reader through fundamentals like tasting, handling, and pairing wine. Then they delve into the specifics of common grapes and wine regions.

In particular I love the grape aroma wheels. I often refer back to them when I have a question about what I might be smelling or tasting.

The book does not stop with just particulars about some of the most common grape varietals. Puckette and Hammack have also provided details about the more well-known wine regions; both in the Old World and in the New.

Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine is available in MANY languages. I have it only in English at the moment but am looking forward to getting my hands on copies in Italian, German, and Spanish!

The book is like a compact version of the Wine Folly website. So if you’re like me and have searched Puckette and Hammack’s website for information; you’ll find Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine informative, interesting, and very useful.