on October 13, 2008
When I lived in Napa, I saw the sad, inevitable industrial takeover of the wine community. Now the moneymen mass produce thousands of acres of mediocre cabernet or zinfandel in the Central Valley and slap a label with the word "Napa" on it to inflate the price. They doctor their mediocrity with wood chips and flavored yeasts. Some regions of France are losing their integrity to this bottom feeding mentality. Robert Camuto, like Kermit Lynch and director Jonathan Nossiter (Mondovino), seeks out the people who are wrestling the soul of wine away from the people and places that would sell it to the highest bidder. Corkscrewed hits it on the head with his uneasiness at the rote tasting sessions at Vinexpo. From there he takes us with him on his voyages of discovery, not as an expert but as a wine lover. He conjures images of the real, the genuine, the natural and the heartfelt in each of his visits to various wine regions in France. His comical, bacchus-possessed visit to the most over-the-top wine event in the world, the auction at les Hospices de Beaune, makes you realize that the Burgundians have somehow maintained their integrity in spite of the world wide clamor for pinot noir. His journey with the peasant (et fier d'etre!) in the Ardêche and that region's rediscovery of chatus, provides hope. The stories and survival of these intense, impassioned winemakers are essential for any wine lover.
on November 20, 2008
Although its principal subject is wine and the search for authenticity by some of France's most devoted winemakers, Corkscrewed does a wonderful job capturing a sense of place. The chateau-rich hills of Bordeaux, the pristine coasts of Corsica, the wine-growing corners of Provence and other lesser-visited regions take form as both backdrop and integral elements in Robert Camuto's French wine country adventures. Through a collection of expertly sketched characters, many of whom truly are characters, he brings to life the tension between craftsmanship and commercialism in this charming corner of world agriculture. These Frenchman are by turns humorous and stubbornly opinionated, and expertly rendered by an author with an eye and ear for telling detail.
on May 13, 2009
If what you worry about when you worry about wine is drowning in rivers and lakes and seas of homogeneous and technologically altered plonk ("a perpetual assembly line of high-octane wines that tend to taste alike"), help is on the way. Well, maybe not "help" per se, but inspiration.
Although you will most likely want to run right out and buy wines from all the producers profiled in the book, that isn't the point. The author is not a professional wine critic or wine speculator; he's a passionate observer and insightful investigator. He also loves wine and all that it can mean in the context of food, culture, society and history.
With an often elegant, sometimes eclectic, but always very personal style, Camuto demonstrates a truly inspired sensitivity and commitment to his subject. There's also something "deeper" in the book that I can't quite put my finger on yet but that goes beyond any prosaic comments about natural wine or devoted growers. Perhaps it's the notion that wine IS food, sustenance, and a catalyst for experiences that are even more significant and profound than what transpires in the vineyard or at the dinner table. At the very least, Camuto delivers "a collection of love letters to wine," as a Seattle reviewer aptly described it. That alone is more than enough for me.
"Corkscrewed" is the last in a rather long list of wine books that I've read over the past decade and more. I wish it had been the first.
on September 27, 2015
This book is full of valuable information on committed French wine makers; it's the kind of book everyone who's truly interested in wine will devour. The people Camuto met along the way are REAL CHARACTERS and I was fascinated by their ideas and dedication to the art of making wine. So intrigued we were that we set out to find some of these guys, and what a trip!
on February 25, 2009
Corkscrewed, although promoted as a deep insight into the French wine
culture is more than that, yes indeed, much more than a tome for
oenophiles. Certainly It is a perceptive narrative of the fascinating
array of wines in different sections of France. All revealed by
someone who is profoundly knowledgeable of the differences and nuances
of those differences in various wines produced in a number of sections
of France. But it reaches far beyond being just a well written
discourse on such wines. It is made up of fascinating human interest
vignettes about those involved in various aspects of French grape
raising and wine production. These are the people the tourist never
meets, or more importantly, never gets to know as friends. This is a
tribute to the author's far above average writing and perception
capability. The book is filled with the escapades of this "seeker of
wine growers." The reader really gets to know these people, many of
whom are the latest extension of families who have been in the wine
producing occupation for years, yes, even centuries. You follow the
author as he travels from region to region, in many cases unveiling
wines known to only a few. The human interest element reflects a writer
who has been a skilled and observant journalist for years. Just one
example, when he decides to become a "grape picker" for a week. The
reader shares the joy of a dedicated wine aficionado getting involved
in producing his favorite libation. And you can feel the aches and
pains of working from sun up to sundown in the vineyards. And even the
satisfaction when his fellow veteran grape pickers celebrate his
achievement by the traditional grape dunking -'ceremoniously
depositing him as his "baptism of grapes" into a tub of his favorite
fruit. This is a pleasant journey into the French wine country, related
by an individual who has both a superb command of what wine is all
about and an equally superb command of the writing art, effectively
employed to explain the appreciation of the wine mystic. Obviously, I
think this book is a definite "keeper."
Jack Raskopf, Fort Worth, Texas
on October 31, 2008
This book addresses a subject which is, or should be, a concern for all of us: the preservation of our quality of life and the integrity of our planet. During his journey up "the grape vine" R. Camuto introduces us to a fascinating and diverse group of people, purists, poets, musicians, winemakers and lovers of the earth all of them, for whom quality, tradition, and the love of "terroir" becomes an art and a "raison d'etre". Often humoristic, this foray into an industry which is fast becoming spoiled by "big" money puts in proper perspective three essentials in the life of modern man: maintaining the quality of life, reclaiming the pride an individual takes in his trade and a growing awareness that preserving the integrity of the planet has become equivalent to self preservation. C.M.Smith
on June 14, 2009
Thanks to Robert Camuto for finding grace, beauty and soul in the defiant French people who populate his book. I am so disillusioned, generally, with the state of wines, vintners and marketers because they are so cookie cutter. Camuto has restored this Canuck gal's faith that integrity in and fidelity to an artisan vision in wine production still exists.
on May 3, 2009
Think of this book as a follow-up to Kermit Lynch's, "Adventures on the Wine Route."
If you already like -- or even love -- wine, "Corkscrewed" will heighten the experience by connecting you to committed winemakers (farmers, really) who bring this special beverage from vine to us in as whole a form as possible. It isn't easy, and learning what it takes will make each bottle you drink a little more memorable.
The book is worth the price just for the well-edited list of winemakers he meets (i.e., a good "short list" for your own shopping), but Camuto's is as good a writer as his taste in wine. While I'm a longtime lover of wine, he inspired me to explore new regions and new types of wine. We only have so many days to enjoy wine (do the math), so it's helpful to have someone point you in the right direction and make it more enjoyable at the same time.
A great book for wine lovers and wine lovers-to-be.
on January 31, 2009
In a world of overblown everything from houses to wine, it is refreshing to read Robert V. Camuto's, Corkscrewed. Camuto writes about a new generation of French wine producers. These vintners are passionate about making real wine with an eye towards sustaining not only the land but also one of the simple, accessible pleasures in life...sharing good wine with friends and family.
on January 13, 2009
I have NY Times wine writer Eric Asimov to thank for bringing this book to my attention; he called it one of the best he'd read in 2008, and I'm inclined to agree (though he no doubt read a lot more titles than I did). Camuto combines curiosity about traditionally-made French wines, more than a few of which are produced by serious (if sometimes slightly eccentric) vignerons, with an incisive and empathetic eye for people (his portrait of "Uncle Jacques" is quite touching). Each chapter recounts a visit to a different region in France, including conversations with winemakers, tasting impressions, and some local viticultural history. Indeed, the text reads almost as if it were a diary of these travels and visits. Thoroughly recommended.
Having said that, I noticed more spelling and grammatical errors, typos, and mistakes in this book than in any other I've read. (No proofreaders at the publisher?) Many of these are easily overlooked, yet some are substantive. Two examples: "all but a few winemakers are willing to do without [sulphur]" (the author means to state the opposite); Loire Valley wines made of Chenin blanc are "low-acidity" wines (Chenin blanc is a high-acid grape, particularly when grown in the Loire Valley). So in a way this book really is like a diary, transcribed directly from notebook without revision, warts and all. But like a letter from a friend, it is still a good read.