Sunday, January 8, 2017

Book Review: "Corkscrew" by Peter Stafford-Bow

"Corkscrew" by Peter Stafford-Bow
Who was idiot enough to make a wine like this? It had to be French.
Peter Stafford-Bow is a pen name, and after reading this book you'll understand why. He could very easily piss some people off. Corksrew is subtitled "The highly improbable, but occasionally true, tale of a professional wine buyer". He pulls no punches on the wine trade industry and retail industry of England, and I'm sure it's not hard for some to figure out who he's really talking about.

Corkscrew is also one of the funniest novels I've ever read. Peter has a genius wit and a subtle humor that made me break out in laughter constantly, getting strange looks from my wife. Who doesn't love it when an expression is compared to "that of a treasure hunter unearthing a foil-wrapped turd"?

I'm going to give you a run down of how it starts, and a little more so you know what the book is about. If you don't want any spoilers, then I suggest you do not read any further.

Felix Hart, the main character of Corkscrew, is a charismatic and highly intelligent young man with a love of drinking and a gift for dropping panties. His hard partying lifestyle leads him to become the first person with his prestigious scholarship to be kicked out of college. Seeking advice, he visits with his favorite professor who gives him an herbal African concoction called Madame Joubert's Lekker Medisyne Trommel. When added to water, it's a performance enhancer that revitalizes your senses and focus. He's also told that if he wants to travel the world and continue to party, then he should become a wine merchant.
"Kumal! Get my shotgun!"
"Very good, sir."
I had a terrible sense that things were slipping out of control. 
After his boss at a wine shop dies while taking a dump, Felix is promoted as the manager for another store of the chain in Little Chalfont. There he finds that the living quarters given to him by the company was inhabited by squatters, which apparently have some pretty damn good rights in England. Felix earns his way into living with these hippy squatters; Wodin, Mercedes and Fistule. All three would have important parts to play later on in the book.

On the mid-palate, with the help of Madame Joubert's Lekker Medisyne Trommel, Felix climbs the ladder of wine management at Gatesave. The key to one of these promotions is to become a Minstrel of Wine. Earning this certification includes classes that weed out unworthy students almost every time. There's no spitting allowed when tasting during these classes, and if you show you're too intoxicated or can't perform and answer questions then you've "sinned against the gods" and are kicked out. One of the two main events of the book is the final test for the certification, and it's fascinating. I could not put it down.

This book has everything. The wine geekiness secretes the pages. He travels to places like Bulgaria and South Africa in search for wine. But there's also sex appeal as he tries to bed almost every woman that he comes in contact with, and then there's an old man's penis in sparkling rosé. There's also several animal attacks (ostriches, leopards, cows), illegal refugees, drug deals, wacky protesters, the mob, and a few rather disturbing deaths.

On the finish, there's a brilliant display of chaos that ties Felix's entire life story together. I honestly didn't want this book to end. I wanted to stay in the apartment with Felix, Wodin, Mercedes and Fistule. I grew very fond of these characters and would like to see them again.

In conclusion, Corkscrew has to be on the must-read list for any wine lover. YOU CAN EVEN BUY IT HERE:
"Corks are for cunts," - Van Blerk on screwcaps


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