The best wine books of 2021

Thursday, 16 December, 2021, Henry Jeffreys
How do you write a wine book that appeals to the general reader?

The answer is to leaven the technical stuff with human stories; bring out the characters, the heroes and, ideally, some villains too. One author who does this marvelously is Robert Camuto. His previous book Palmento, about the wines of Sicily, contained an unforgettable chapter on the late Marco De Bartoli and the tensions within the De Bartoli family. 

Happily, he has pulled it off again with his latest book, South of Somewhere: Wine, Food, and the Soul of Italy. It’s a journey through the wines of Southern Italy. Each chapter is a region and along the way he meets producers including Alberto Graci in Campania, Emidio Pepe in Abruzzo, and Frank Cornelissen on Mount Etna.

Camuto’s modus operandi seems to be to remember indiscreet conversations over long liquid lunches and then reproduce them on the page. Or maybe he smuggles a tape recorder in. Either way the book is a riot. He’s blessed with access to great characters. Giampaolo Tabarrini in Montefalco is described as “exuberant to the point of seeming madness”, and he’s able to evoke wine, food, and setting in just a few words. But it’s a bittersweet read at times, much of the beauty of southern Italy has been blighted by corruption, greed and organised crime. And yet as the country has decayed, the wines have got better.

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The Best Wine Books of 2021
The Best Wine Books of 2021

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