BOOK REVIEW: The Wine Explorer

Former wine merchant turned wine writer Graham Mitchell’s latest book is a joyful read, drawing on his years of travel as a wine buyer and sharing the experiences of the people and wine regions he visited.

The chapters alternate between featuring a specific country and information on the various foibles of making and choosing wine. I absolutely preferred the region-based chapters, where the writing was strongest. His personal anecdotes about his experiences really brought the regions to life, you can almost taste the great confluence of flavours as Graham enjoys Malbec with local beef in Mendoza for the first time.

What to do with wine

There are also chapters on choosing from a wine list, pairing food and wine and how wine ages to name but a few. For me these are less focused and I didn’t think they had the same finesse as the personal memories. There is so much to say so it is hard to get these complex themes across in just a few pages. They are certainly interesting topics, but the seemingly endless list of recommendations in the wine list chapter would certainly overface the beginner, while it adds little to what someone with a little knowledge would already know – all the pairings are pretty safe and well known.

There was also a tendency throughout the book to equate good wine with old wine, when this myth has been widely busted even for the general reader. A lot of people are aware that the huge majority of wines are not built to last and are at their best drunk young. Those that don’t know should be told! This aspect made the book feel a little dated for me, as did the occasional Dad joke which crept into the narrative unannounced and broke up the fascinating stories of Graham’s experiences. It is in fact a reprint of the book with corrections, the original being released in 2013 so I wonder if that might account for it.

Where to go with wine

I want wine books to take me on a journey. Those stories about the winemakers you’ve met, that incredible meal you tried, an unexpected pairing you discovered, that is what makes your experience unique. And those are the elements of this book which I loved and have true mass appeal. Buy it for the wine travel stories and I’m sure you will agree that this is a perfect holiday read. Even if the only holiday we’re having this year is on the sun lounger in the garden!

I was sent a copy of this book free of charge for the purposes of review. The opinions expressed here represent my honest view of what I read.


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

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