January Book Club Read: Corkscrewed by Robert V. Camuto

This month’s book club book is the perfect extension of last week’s blog post on natural wines. Robert V. Camuto’s Corkscrewed recounts his oenological exploration in what is arguably the world’s greatest wine producing country: France. Each chapter is a portrait of a region and its most unique winemakers. This travel log is window into the country’s rich regional diversity and longstanding traditions as they evolve amidst a shifting cultural landscape. 

Camuto sings the praises of France’s small producers. Whether world famous or obscure, Camuto provides detailed descriptions of some of the country’s most unique and precious wines and the process by which they were made. He is careful to outline each vintner’s unique practices. The minutia of farming practices are scrutinized and painstakingly recounted. Pruning, fertilizing, weeds and winds have never been more captivating! As such, the reader becomes familiar with the acumen of wine production, particularly small production wines. 

While Camuto is never overtly critical of larger wine houses, his subjects are. These are producers who believe that chemicals, fertilizers and technological interventions have destroyed the health of the soils and corrupted the country’s wine. Each vintner has a unique philosophy and practices, however all agree that the use of chemicals and additives desecrate both terroir and wine. This may sound esoteric, even dogmatic, but the tone is never preachy. After all, these are masters pronouncing their passion and their beliefs and each approach brings a new perspective into the involved process of producing great wine.

Amidst the discussion of winemakers and their practices Camuto tantalizes readers with vivid descriptions of mouth watering wines and accompanying feasts. Whether attending springtime festival in Gallic, eating lunch with Alsatian grape pickers, or dining with a French uncle, the partnership of food and wine is highlighted. These moments provide cultural context to the wines of various regions and fantastic suggestions for doing your own French wine pairings at home. 

Any gourmand, traveler, Francophile or wino will be captivated by Camuto’s accounts of Burgundian bacchanals, hills of lavender and thyme, and bespectacled, wool-sweater-wearing farmers philosophizing over mother leaves and Le Theatre d’Agriculture, a 400-year-old book that provides secrets and insights into French agricultural traditions.  Like that classic text, Corkscrewed will give you new insight into French wines and French culture.   


Gretchen Skedsvold