Natalie MacLean likes to drink wine every day, and she figured the same must be true of her readers.
That was the inspiration for her newest book, Unquenchable, which describes MacLean’s travels to eight of the world’s winemaking regions and, at the same time, suggests a wine for each night of the week.
“I wanted to have a narrative arc, if you will, to put a fancy term on it, something that would pull you through but also there’s the practical aspect of suggesting a bottle for this evening, for this day of the week,” said MacLean, a Nova Scotia native, in Halifax this week during her cross-country book tour.
“There are some wines that make sense if you’ve had a lively weekend — a nice light German Riesling on a Monday is a relief, low in alcohol but still packed with flavour. Moving toward the weekend, maybe you’re having bigger meals, Friday tends to be a time when you’re going to cook a little longer, and so on.”
MacLean, who’s won numerous awards for her books and her oft-visited website, said it’s never been her goal to write an encyclopedia about wine, choosing instead to focus on the stories of the people in the industry.
For Unquenchable, she toured Germany, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, Italy, Portugal, France and the Niagara region. Each chapter concludes with tips on the best value wines in each category, recipes and suggested pairings.
It would be tough to be told she could drink wines from only one of those places, MacLean said, but if she had to, she could do it.
“It would be Niagara,” she said.
“Even though that sounds like it’s pandering, it’s not, because I love Pinot Noir and Niagara makes terrific, edgy Pinot Noir. That’s what I like —I’m a true hedonist who likes all the flavour but not the heavy alcohol and oak and tannin that can make you tire of a wine very quickly. Plus, Pinot goes with so many different foods.”
The countries MacLean visited for Unquenchable are all well known as wine producers, but she thinks the future will be kind to wineries in countries that are not hidebound by years of tradition.
“I think a lot of the former Eastern bloc countries, like Czechoslovakia, Hungary,” she said. “They’re producing terrific wines, we just don’t get a lot of them here. Bulgaria would be another one. Maybe a little farther out, closer to 20 years . . . China is becoming an increasingly big producer of wine.”
MacLean has been writing about wine for more than 10 years and has been gladdened by the fact that people are more often drinking local, and not just because it’s the politically correct thing to do.
“That goes for here in Nova Scotia, with the terrific crisp whites, and especially the bubblies that are being produced lately — they’re amazing. In Niagara, the Okanagan, a lot of regions across the country, there’s good wine in your own backyard. Also, overall, wine consumption continues to increase, more people are interested in it, which is taking the snobbery out of it because it’s a more democratic drink than it’s ever been. You can learn all about it if you want to, but you don’t have to.”
The question she’s most commonly asked is: “What’s your favourite wine?” To which she replies: “The one someone else pays for.”
But over the next few weeks, she’ll be handing out plenty of advice about what wine to serve with Christmas dinner.
“Pinot Noir works well, but also California Zinfandel is juicy, so if you like a little bit more full-bodied red . . . without drying out tannins — you don’t want that with turkey, which can be dry. Dry on dry doesn’t work. You want juicy mouth-watering in your wine to moisten out the meat.
“So a California Zinfandel, a Canadian Pinot Noir, a Nova Scotia Baco Noir would also work. But if you’re a white fan: Riesling, L’Acadie Blanc, bubbly would be fun,” said MacLean, who promises that Nova Scotia, and its wines, will play a big part in her next project.
“The next book is all Canada, and I’m going to start here and go across the country. There will be a significant amount about Nova Scotia because, to me, it’s one of the four major wine-producing regions in the country, along with Quebec, Ontario and B.C. The other provinces actually do produce wine, some are fruit based, but we’re represented now in every province by at least a few wineries.”
You can read more reviews of my new wine book Unquenchable here.