This may come as something of a shock, but we don’t spend all of our time visiting wineries, collecting wines and swilling them in lonely, dark corners of our palatial McMinnville mansion.
We occasionally read about wine, too, and this season brought two new wine books — Unquenchable, by Natalie MacLean, and Naked Wine, by Alice Feiring — across our desk. Both are second books by women who carved out their own unique wine beats in their first, critically received efforts: MacLean as a kind of straight-talking wine everywoman who extols the virtues of bargain wines; and Feiring as a fierce proponent of unadulterated, unmanipulated, craftsman wines that don’t ramp up the alcohol levels, flavors and “bigness” in search of Parker scores.
But good Pinot Noir can be expensive, and award-winning writer Natalie MacLean promises “a Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines” in the subtitle to Unquenchable. Well, that’s easy, I thought: MacLean need only pop down to our local Grocery Outlet, tipple her way through the racks and racks of bargain wine, spitting out the ones that taste like they should cost $3.99, and give us a few buying hints after her headache wears off.
But no, instead she embarks on a world tour of her own, stopping in South Africa, Argentina, Australia and the Niagara region of Canada to taste and chat with producers. MacLean is an amiable guide, and an honest one. “Hogwash!” she declares at one juncture, “I stopped being objective the day I was born.” At another place she barks, “If you’re looking for consistency, try the Oxford Companion to Wine. If you want adventure, let’s go.”
She writes well about the wines she tries, and the foods laid out before her (nearly all of which can be found on her website, www.nataliemaclean.com).
I’d like to get my hands on some of that bargain wine, too. In the end, Unquenchable provides a nice overview of world wines, and travel descriptions from an amiable guide with whom you wouldn’t mind knocking back a liter or two of the good stuff…if she’s buying.
You can read more reviews of my new wine book Unquenchable here.