Joy Farrell-Grove

I was initially skeptical I would be engrossed in Natalie MacLean’s latest book, Unquenchable; most of my non-fiction reading is devoted to hefty school readings. The premise of a wine book did not immediately pique my interest, this in spite of my own affinity for a glass. It was, however, Natalie’s writing style that drew me in completely. Her writing is succinct in that you feel as though the book is whipping by and as it does, she fills your head with heady visions of lush wineries and eccentric characters.

The style of writing is interesting. For much of the book I would sigh dramatically about not feeling a connection to Unquenchable but then go on to describe in minute detail every last thing Natalie wrote. I am a fickle, cynical beast about my literary adventures, constantly unsure I’ll enjoy what I’m reading even though I remain incapable of putting down the book (or closing my computer) for the entire thing, late into the night. Any of my misgivings were definitely due to preconceived notions that a wine book would be boring. This is not your boring wine book. Natalie has a cheeky sense of humour in the sweetest sense and it is quite evident throughout the entire book as she encounters the denziens of the wine world.

Unquenchable is written in a friendly, conversational tone, as though you are peering over her shoulder as she shares a glass of wine with Wolf Blass, the man as much of a legend as his wine label, it really does feel as though we are sitting quietly at the same table, “clearly, Wolf’s outsized personality is not solely responsible for his success: The broadsides are backed up by wines that are pretty damn good” (Unquenchable, 18). The book is a good mix of approachable, straightforward and creative and even though it comes in at a whopping 372 pages, Unquenchable is a fantastic read. I read the chapters almost effortlessly, completely engrossed in the shenanigans (and deep history) of each vintner and their winery.

The book is as much about the people as it is the wine. We are deftly taken through an entire week’s worth of wine pairings, including each chapter’s Dinner for a Cheapskate menu and the Top-Value Producers for each region. Stephen and Prue of the traditional Henschke vineyard are everything that I love about farming the land, the traditional care the couple takes to preserve their 150 year old vines is remarkable and their passion is clearly evident as we spend the evening imbibing with the couple. Natalie carries with her a knack for informative storytelling.

I would recommend the book to just about anyone. It is certainly a wine book in that you learn about what makes for the perfect wine (and how to impress your guests with your new pairing super ability), and the way to do so inexpensively with each turn of the page; but it is so much more than that. The people and their stories make it a joy to read Unquenchable.

Thank you so much to Natalie MacLean for the e-copy of her Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines.

You can read more reviews of my new wine book Unquenchable here.