Root Cause by Steven Laine. Wine Book Review.

Root Cause by Steven Laine is a globetrotting ‘beach-read’ thriller set within the world of wine.

Corvina Guerra, a flying winemaker for one of the world’s biggest wine brands, discovers the devastating aphid Phylloxera in an Italian vineyard. Even worse, this strain is resistant to the grafted rootstock that saved European wine production in the 1800s. Corvina partners with Bryan Lawless, a disgraced Master of Wine candidate, to find the ‘root cause’ of this outbreak. They will quickly discover that this is an malevolent attack and the entire world’s wine production is at stake!

This is a truly global adventure with sequences in California, France, Italy, South Africa, Hong Kong, Chile, London, Canada, and more. The action is fast paced and suspenseful, but always stays light and fun.

Steven Laine has also seeded this novel with large amounts of wine knowledge that will excite any reader with a casual interest in wine. For sommeliers and wine experts, you aren’t going to learn anything new here, but you’ll likely have a great time reading it.

I rate this book 88 points on the 100 Point Wine Rating Scale popularized by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and others.

The best things about Root Cause:

The dialogue is always snappy and speaks in the voices of the characters. I could see this turned into a 10 episode Netflix show with little change to the dialogue.

The use of the world of wine. There are so many cool little sequences in different wine-producing countries and different aspects of the wine business. I was originally worried that it would focus on only Italy and California, but Laine really makes good use of the whole planet.

The least effective parts of the book:

There are so many situations and wine regions referenced that I never felt that any of them got their descriptive due.

Part of the attraction of the wine business is the bucolic landscapes, luxury restaurants, delicious food, and old-world villages.

I was really hoping for some lush sensory sequences akin to what one finds in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels or Peter Mayle’s novel of Provence, France. When that world-building occurred, it was often rushed past for the next plot sequence. I’d recommend removing about 40 pages of plot and replacing it with 25 pages of immersive description.

In conclusion:

This is a fun read and expect anyone with at least a passing interest in wine to enjoy it. I’m looking forward to reading Steven Laine’s next novel about wine.


FTC Disclosure:

  • I received a free copy of this book in return for posting an honest review.

  • In my job at Cutting Edge Selections, we currently sell in Ohio and Kentucky some of the wineries referenced in the novel.


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