As do many people, I like drinking wine. But I don’t know how to assess which wines are worth the money and which aren’t.

One day, I stumbled upon a book at an Indigo store and bought it right away. I liked the cartoons on the cover and the title, Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wine.

I started following author Natalie MacLean, an Ottawa-based sommelier, on Twitter.

I found MacLean as bubbly in person as in her videos. In a phone interview, she told me about her free mobile apps for iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices.  “Most wine decisions are made in the store, so mobile really works well in this category,” she said.

Her new wine app uses GPS to pinpoint the closest liquor store to you and gives you a top 10 list of wines in that store in stock right now. It’s available at iTunes Canada, as well as the U.S. and U.K. iTunes stores.

Check out her humorous blog post about the app. Its Tell a Friend feature can help you deal with pesky people who keep asking you for wine recommendations.

Valentine’s Day is coming up quickly, so here are MacLean’s top 10 wine and chocolate pairings.

I couldn’t resist asking her for tips. Here’s one she passed along: Look for wines from warm regions like Argentina and Chile.

“Often the cost of production is cheaper, because wine makers aren’t battling disease, rot and weather as much as cool climate producers are. Therefore, there’s less crop loss and lower costs for production,” she explains.

Here are Natalie’s Top 5 bargain wines, showing prices at Ontario’s liquor stores and links to her website reviews:
•2011 Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc, Chile ($8.95)
•2009 Angels Gate Riesling, VQA, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ont. ($13.95)
•2009 Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, Chile ($12.95)
•2010 Cusumano Nero D’avola, Sicily, Italy ($9.95)
•2011 Obikwa Shiraz, South Africa ($8.95)

If you find wine writing intimidating, you’ll find MacLean’s work more accessible. She uses stories and a sparkling wit to draw you into her world.

“What’s your favourite wine?” she’s often asked. Her answer: “The one someone else pays for.”

The second question she’s asked is: “Can you recommend a great wine that costs less than $5?”

Answer: “Not unless all you want is a wet tongue.”

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