BOOK REVIEW: Corkscrew by Peter Stafford-Bow

Having been sent a copy of Corkscrew by Peter Stafford-Bow to review some months ago, I was beginning to despair that I would ever actually have the chance to sit and read it. It seemed to tick all the boxes for me – a wine-focused book, but for a change a bit of light-hearted fiction that would give me an excuse to escape from the rigours of my WSET studies. Turns out I do not have a lot of spare hours in the day for light-hearted escape.

Corkscrew by Peter Stafford-Bow

However, our recent road trip, taking in the full 1500km from Leicester to Torino, through some of Europe’s most interesting wine regions (in my humble opinion) was actually the time I needed away from the laptop and quality reception to actually get this book done. And boy, did I enjoy it more than I expected!

What is Corkscrew about?

Peter’s book follows the tale of Felix on his story of rags, to vinous riches and the story beyond. An orphan, expelled from school Felix uses his not inconsiderable instinct for self preservation, undeniable charm and intellect and a preternatural dose of luck to cultivate himself career in the wine buying trade.

Our unlikely hero bounces from one challenge to the next, all helped down with a healthy slurp of wine from around the world – not least a good dose of Asti Spumante… But can his luck hold out as he overcomes one obstacle after another?

Is it good?

It’s a fast-paced book that holds the attention. I don’t know how much experience Peter Stafford-Bow has of the commercial wine buying world, but I suspect much of what he writes is uncomfortably near the bone for a supermarket negociant! In my study-obsessed brain it was also a useful test for me thinking about all of the wines mentioned, trying to make sure that I knew that a Margaux is a left bank Bordeaux. Yes, I really am that sad! And I just enjoyed the narrative as it took in wines all around the world. The fanciful details of the drawn out process and initiation into the ‘Minstrels of Wine’ had particular resonance with me as I work through my wine studies, although I suspect the real Master of Wine examinations are a little less colourful.

I finished the book around Belgium on the way home

Those without a taste for the fruit of the vine will still very much enjoy this book with its desperately relatable tales of petty office politics and the ruthless march of capitalism. And it’s hard to tell you much more without giving the game away. This is a novel which alternates between scenes of the utmost mundanity, into the wildest flights of fantasy and exotic adventures that you can possibly imagine. And Peter Stafford-Bow’s talent is threading it all together into a single narrative that is utterly believable. Sort of.

A great holiday read, a chuckle inducing yarn – I raise my glass to Corkscrew!


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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