How Much is Too Much Wine, Old Rosé and Hard-Won Wisdom with the Women of Ill Repute, Wendy Mesley & Maureen Holloway



What might surprise you about Rosé wine? Is being a supertaster an advantage in the wine industry? Do you feel you’re drinking too much wine?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m being interviewed by Wendy Mesley and Maureen Holloway for their podcast, Women of Ill Repute.

You can find the wines we discussed here.


Join me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Live Video

Join the live-stream video of this conversation on Wednesday at 7 pm eastern on Instagram Live Video, Facebook Live Video or YouTube Live Video.

I’ll be jumping into the comments as we watch it together so that I can answer your questions in real-time.

I want to hear from you! What’s your opinion of what we’re discussing? What takeaways or tips do you love most from this chat? What questions do you have that we didn’t answer?

Want to know when we go live?

Add this to your calendar:





  • Why didn’t I apologize after being called out for using other people’s reviews on my website?
  • How does the herd mentality bring out the worst in people online?
  • What is it about the wine industry that continues to feed into the deeply-rooted sexism?
  • How does wine marketing perpetuate stereotypes and negatively impact women?
  • What does it mean to be a super taster?
  • How do I review so many bottles of wine?
  • Why is it important for a wine reviewer to expectorate?
  • What is it about artichokes that makes them hard to pair with alcohol?
  • What might surprise you about Rosé wine?
  • What are the five aspects of tasting wine?
  • How has the vocabulary of wine evolved over time?
  • What can you do to develop your smell vocabulary?


Start The Conversation: Click Below to Share These Wine Tips


About Women of Ill Repute

Women of Ill Repute is a compliment. And not just for women! Wendy Mesley and Maureen Holloway have left CBC and CHFI to chat with sassy women about sex, family, politics, and media. Lots of secrets and no room for shame. Is it journalism or comedy? It’s both. Smart talk with tv and radio stars, comedians, authors, lawyers, politicos, restaurant icons and more. All of them brave, fierce and funny.




Tag Me on Social

Tag me on social media if you enjoyed the episode:


Thirsty for more?

  • Sign up for my free online wine video class where I’ll walk you through The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
  • You’ll find my books here, including Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines and Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.
  • The new audio edition of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is now available on, and other country-specific Amazon sites;, and other country-specific iTunes sites; and



Maureen Holloway (00:00):
You get sent all this stuff and you take notes and you go down the row and you sip all these wines and you clean your palette. Tell me more.

Wendy Mesley

Then what happens?

Maureen Holloway

Then what happens?

Natalie MacLean (00:12):
The difference between tasting and drinking is thinking and spitting. So you do have to expectorate –  spit – or else you’ll be sloshed. The best time to taste in the day is at 9:00 AM. And facing 30 full body Cabernets from Chile is not exactly a lovely thing. Although I have no sympathy for my job. I will taste usually later in the day, compare like to like, line up those bottles. I only take an ounce or two and then spit it out. I re-cork all the bottles and pass them on to other sommelier or writers here in the community so that the wineries who are sending me samples will get more than one review.

Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean. And each week I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please and let’s get started.

Welcome to episode 257. What might surprise you about Rosé wine? Is being a super taster really an advantage in the wine industry? And do you feel you might be drinking a little too much wine? In today’s episode, you’ll hear stories and tips that answer those questions in our chat with Wendy Mesley, former CBC anchor for The National, and Maureen Holloway, former host of CHFI’s Morning Show, who together now host the popular Women of Ill Repute podcast. I love that title.

Their guests have included former Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlin, comedian Rick Mercer, novelists Louise Penny and Anne-Marie MacDonald, talk show host Marilyn Dennis, and musician Jan Arden. They’re actually interviewing me in this extremely candid conversation about the wine industry and related issues. But first I’d like to share a snippet from a longer review of my new book – Wine Witch on Fire: Rising From the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much-  by Dr. Karen Valara, the publisher and owner of the Picton Gazette.

“This is an engaging, funny, witty book. Ms. MacLean is excellent on anything to do with wine and frank about the realities of her work. There is an honesty on the page here that is not easy to achieve. What started as a calling out of a very successful critic spiralled into a sustained groundless attack enabled by the quasi anonymity of the internet and the culture of misogyny that mars the clubby enclaves of the wine industry, its assertion of male power to subjugate in silence, which brought national attention to the culture such as that exposed at the Norman Hardy Winery by a globe and male investigation in 2018 that harms young women. But what makes this book sing even amid the darkness of canvases is its wit. Reading it is like having a glass or three with a very good friend”.

If you’ve read the book or are reading it, I’d love to hear from you at [email protected]. If you haven’t got your copy yet and would like to support it and this podcast that I do on a volunteer basis, please order it from any online book retailer no matter where you live. Every little bit helps spread its message of hope, justice, and resilience. I’ll put a link in the show notes to all the retailers worldwide at Okay, on with the show.

Maureen Holloway (04:30):
Well, I may not know a lot about wine, but I do know what I like.

Wendy Mesley (04:35):
So what do you like?

Maureen Holloway (04:36):
Wine. [laughter]. Its that simple.

Wendy Mesley (04:39):
Me too. Orange wine. Red wine. White wine. I like everything maybe too much or there’s that study according to that study…

Maureen Holloway (04:48):
I don’t want la la, la, la la. That study. No, I don’t want to hear about that study, but I will admit to spending a significant portion of my grocery dollar on wine.

Wendy Mesley (05:00):
So fess up then. How much do you…

Maureen Holloway (05:03):
Drink? How much do I drink?

Wendy Mesley (05:05):

Maureen Holloway (05:06):
No, I’d rather tell you how much I make or how often I have sex, actually.

Wendy Mesley (05:13):

Maureen Holloway (05:13):

Wendy Mesley (05:14):

Maureen Holloway (05:17):
Not enough. It’s a red theme. [laughter]

Wendy Mesley (05:20):
So anyway, our guest this week, she actually knows a lot about wine, the wine industry, sort of a fair amount about journalism, a lot about marketing, and particularly how it targets women.

Maureen Holloway (05:32):
We’re talking to Natalie MacLean, who is the author of a highly successful newsletter, as well as several books about wine, including a brand new one called Wine Witch on Fire. And although it seems that she has a dream job, she had a terrible experience within the industry that kind of mirrors what happened to you, Wendy, when you left the CBC.

Wendy Mesley (05:52):

Maureen Holloway (05:52):
We’re going to go there, talk a little bit about that.

Wendy Mesley (05:56):
Just a little. We are going to talk about my time at the CBC, but mostly we’re going to talk about sexism is in the wine industry, what a wine taster actually does, and how much is too much.

Maureen Holloway (06:09):
And while we have her, we’re going to get some tips, I hope, like what to look for in a less expensive wine or what wine goes with artichokes.

Wendy Mesley (06:17):
What? With artichokes?

Maureen Holloway (06:20):
Yeah, that’s a tough pair.

Wendy Mesley (06:21):
You really eat that many artichokes. Really? [laughter]

Maureen Holloway (06:27):
I like artichokes. All right. With no further ado, Natalie MacLean.Thank you for putting up with that intro. It was really nice to see you out in your field there.

Natalie MacLean (06:36):
It’s great to be here, Wendy and Maureen. I think we could have this conversation over a glass or two. You seem like my people, my wine people.

Maureen Holloway (06:46):
Honestly, Wendy and I have a lot of conversations over a glass or three, but not usually while we’re doing the podcast, but I mean, we could start at any time.

Wendy Mesley (06:53):
So in the background there’s this vineyard or something, so you’re obviously outs standing in your field. Where are you?

Natalie MacLean (07:00):
[laughter] I’m a field reporter. Yeah, that’s a painting from California, and I did get permission from the artist to use it as my backdrop. Yes, I’ve learned a lot in the last 10 years.

Maureen Holloway (07:09):
Oh, wow.

Natalie MacLean (07:10):
But yeah, it’s the old Ingle Nook winery, now the Francis Ford Coppola, where you can go see all the movie memorabilia and that sort of thing in his winery.

Wendy Mesley (07:20):
Oh, that’s nice. I want to get this out of the way because I must admit, I knew you were a wine reviewer and I sort of knew about that, but I didn’t know until I read the book. It’s about drinking. It’s about divorce, but it’s also about defamation. That’s in the title.

Maureen Holloway (07:36):
Oh, the three D’s. Yeah

Natalie MacLean (07:38):
Yeah. All the dismal Ds. The publishing team said you cannot have delirium, destitution…

Maureen Holloway

Or diarrhea [laughter].

Wendy Mesley (07:44):
That’s all a lot. So anyway, I was kind of struck by the parallels and then I thought let’s just ignore this. I hate bringing my story about what happened at the CBC and so on onto the podcast, but is it okay if we talk about that? So yeah, so I mean your thing was – not to go deeply into the weeds –  your thing was basically it was you quoted a bunch of other people’s reviews and you didn’t properly cite their references and their backgrounds and so on and so forth. Mine was a lot more complicated. Basically, I used the N word. I should never have used the N word. I used the whole word, but it was with a bunch of colleagues and we were…

Maureen Holloway (08:28):
It was not used in a derogatory term. You were at. This is important to point out. You were actually quoting the title of another piece that you guys wanted to explore.

Wendy Mesley (08:38):
Yeah, well. George Floyd had just been killed and by the police. It was a very emotional time. And I hurt people. I should not have used that word and I apologized immediately. We can get into that because you sort of apologized without apologizing. So anyway, it blew up and I sort of expected that the CBC would come to my defence after punishing me, which they should have. Anyway, your situation, the whole thing blew up…

Maureen Holloway


Wendy Mesley

… I got completely trashed. You got completely trashed. But you handled things differently. First of all, you actually had a lawyer, which I never had, and the lawyer told you, whatever you do do not apologize. So how did you figure out how to get out of that hole?

Natalie MacLean (09:24):
Sure. So sorry is the most expensive word in the English language because it admits guilt and it can be used litigiously against you. I didn’t go to journalism school, and this isn’t excuse number one, but I just was so naive. This was back in 2012, kind of the heyday of aggregators. So Huffington Post and Rotten Tomatoes and so on. And when I started quoting these reviews that were actually on the LCBO, the government liquor store, site for Ontario. It was because I’d noticed some other sites doing it. Anyway, I am a glass half full kind of gal so I thought I’m not going to ask them to take down my reviews. I’m just going to do it too, because doesn’t that provide more context for a wine somebody else’s opinion in addition to mine? Wrong. The legal advice I got was that I was within the bounds of fair use. Well, it’s called fair dealing in Canada and it’s good if we don’t go down the legal rabbit hole because this will get very tedious, very fast.

Maureen Holloway (10:28):
We’ll never get out.

Natalie MacLean (10:29):
Yeah, this will be your lowest rated podcast ever. But it didn’t matter what the legalities were or that I offered to fix them or whatever it was. The accusation ignited literally a bonfire, and then it just spiralled from there to other websites and newspapers around the world from the South Africa Times to the New York Post. It was crazy. All within the span of like 24 maybe 48 hours. So we didn’t talk a lot about cancel culture back in 2012, but I think I can speak from experience what it’s like. And even when you try to jump in and do any explaining, you add fuel to the fire. So whether you explain, it goes wild. Whether you don’t explain, then they say hey she’s not answering the accusations.

Wendy Mesley (11:26):
I found that so interesting because you chose to fight back. So you gave interviews and you told people that you had made a mistake and that you were going to fix it, but you also kind of told people to screw off. Whereas I had worked at CBC for 40 years and it took a year of being investigated and during that time I just thought they’re going to want me back. I’ve been here for 40 years. I made the mistake. I hurt people without ever meaning to but they’re going to want me back. They didn’t want me back. They were perfectly happy to feed the trolls. And then the trolls take over and, as you say in your case the trolls they went crazy, including some of your colleagues.

Maureen Holloway (12:07):
They went crazy. It was. I looked at the whole thread after when all this broke. Then what was the day after Christmas or it was a week before?

Natalie MacLean (12:17):
It was just a week before. My nightmare before Christmas.

Maureen Holloway (12:21):
And it was just the vitriol and the piling on.

Natalie MacLean (12:26):
And I think it’s sort of the false fellowship of hating the same person. People want to be part of something larger, and so they’ll find some cause whether for good or bad. But there’s some sort of beyond heard mentality that takes over online. And I think it’s made even worse these days with bots encouraging people to get bolder and bolder with what I call their keyboard courage. So it is really hard to stop. You can’t stop it. The only thing you can hope for is it dies from lack of oxygen or they find the next person to go after.

Maureen Holloway (13:04):
Which they do, which it does, and they do.

Natalie MacLean (13:07):
They always do. And that’s how mine ended.

Wendy Mesley (13:10):
It’s interesting what it does to friends, too. I had a very, very close friend who two years after the fact said to me, Wendy, I’m really sorry. I should have stood up for you more than I did. Because so many people thought well nobody’s talking about it. I didn’t talk about it for a year. You did. You gave interviews. You were public. And I didn’t talk about it. And so people were, even a journalist at another network in Ottawa told a friend of mine oh yeah well she called somebody the N.  No, I didn’t. I would never. So you’re right, I mean people, trolls, they basically take information and they use it to advance their own agenda, whatever that agenda is, whether it’s for good or ill. It’s just. Anyway, it took you 10 years to write this and now here you are.

Natalie MacLean (13:56):
I’m a slow writer. After five years, I thought well this story just keeps ricocheting around in my head. I need to let it out at least on paper. And so I did as a private exercise for making sense of what had happened. But I had no intention of publishing a book.

Wendy Mesley (14:15):
I’ve got a whole stash of notes and screenshots and they’re all…

Maureen Holloway (14:22):
Give it time, Wendy. Give it time.

Wendy Mesley (14:22):
I’ve got quotes. I’ve got proof of people saying things that would get them fired for way worse than what I supposedly did.  So another five years we’ll be done.

Maureen Holloway (14:35):
Or you let it go. I mean, I’ve not experienced what you guys have experienced and had my own traumas, but nothing quite like that. And there’s also an argument for saying okay s*** happened, but my talent hasn’t been taken. Well whatever our talent is [laughter] wasn’t taken away, and let’s focus on that, which I think you’ve also done because you have climbed out of the ashes of that year. You also underwent a divorce. It was just the worst year ever.

Natalie MacLean (15:06):
It was a bad vintage. It was a really bad vintage. Personally and professionally.

Wendy Mesley (15:10):
A lot of Ds.

Natalie MacLean (15:11):
Yeah, exactly. All the Ds.

Wendy Mesley (15:13):
You talk about sexism in the industry. I mean, Maureen in radio face a lot of sexism. We can talk about that. In television, certainly there’s a lot. But how bad is it in the wine industry?

Natalie MacLean (15:25):
It’s pretty deep rooted. I can’t avoid all these puns. Sorry, I’ll try to find another metaphor if I can, but it’s my world. So the wine world is so I said so clubby. It’s much less formalized than the restaurant industry. So most wineries in Canada and the US have fewer than 20 employees. Most don’t have an HR department, let alone a harassment policy. And all the mentorships or training is usually one-on-one. So whether you want to become a winemaker or a sommelier or whatever you want to do in the industry, it’s usually a one-on-one relationship with someone with a much bigger power differential, which of course lends itself to abuse.

Lots of studies have been out there. I mean 2012, 10 years ago, so must be all better and brighter now. It’s not. They did a 2018 study where 89% of women in the hospitality industry, which includes wineries and restaurants, experienced some form of sexual harassment. In 2020, the New York Times broke the story of the Court of Master Sommeliers where there was allegations and 21 women came forward about getting sexually harassed by. The Court of Master Sommeliers, which is a really hoity-toity kind of a designation you can get in the wine world. That’s 2020. And I think there are more stories that are going to come out. It’s, it’s really hard to talk about it in the wine industry and that’s another reason I’m doing this book. I figure you can’t kill me twice. Maybe I’m wrong. I could be wrong.

Maureen Holloway (17:01):
This is sort of a corollary of that. This is how women are treated within the industry then. Yeah, outside is consumers. That’s something that you’ve been very outspoken about. And I was just saying to Wendy before you joined us, that immediately if I see something that’s pink and says  – well Girls Night Out is probably the most prominent example –  or has a rose in the bottom of the bottle, it’s like stop that. Stop selling me that based on pretty. And it’s been insidious and it’s encouraged women to embrace the idea that you’re not having fun unless you’re getting bombed.

Natalie MacLean


Wendy Mesley (17:38):
I never thought of, I’m a rah rah feminist kind of person, but I never thought that my drinking was actually a feminist reaction.

Natalie MacLean (17:46):
It’s like the Virginia Slim cigarettes of the 1960s, those torches of freedom you can declare

Maureen Holloway (17:51):
You’ve come a long way, baby. Not if you’re still calling me baby.

Natalie MacLean (17:55):
Exactly, exactly. Pour yourself another glass.

Wendy Mesley (17:57):
But what about the artichokes? That’s what Maureen really wants to know.

Maureen Holloway (18:01):
Well, no. Well, we can get into pairings but the practical stuff. But I want to ask you before we get into that very specific stuff. So I was fascinated, and it reminded me I think Elvis Costello or Frank Zappo once said, writing about music is like dancing about architecture. And I thought that applies to writing about wine, which is such a sensual and physical experience, is tough. You are a what do you call them. S super taster?

Natalie MacLean (18:32):
Yes. That doesn’t mean I drink a lot though. I used to. It just means you have a lot of taste buds. She said they live in a sensory neon world. It’s like having 500 fingers instead of five. So…

Wendy Mesley (18:46):
I’ve seen that in the movie. I think.

Maureen Holloway


Natalie MacLean (18:54):
[laughter] So, very attuned.

Wendy Mesley (18:55):
Yes. Well, that’s what we say anyway. Very attuned. Very attuned. So can you not be a sommelier if you’re not a super taster?

Natalie MacLean (19:03):
Oh, sure. You definitely can be a sommelier. You can be a wine writer and so on. It’s not a prerequisite. In fact, some would argue that it can work against you sometimes because you will come across a very big wine, a full bodied, lots of oak, lots of alcohol, and it’s just like, turn it down. It’s like the guy who’s too loud at the bar. It’s like you don’t want to take that one home. But you have to recognize there’s a broad spectrum of palates. And so when I review wines, I’m reviewing it “for people who love full-bodied wines. You love this wine” that kind of thing.

Maureen Holloway (19:39):
I was fascinated to hear about the setup that you have. So you’ve got cases of wine all over your house that people send you. And you try to taste 30 bottles a day. So I have two questions. Is there a lot of spitting? And secondly, what happens to all the open bottles and do you need any help with that?

Wendy Mesley (20:03):
Can we come?

Maureen Holloway

I guess that’s three questions.

Natalie MacLean (20:05):
Yeah. Recycling day here is just an embarrassment on the street with the crowds fighting.

Maureen Holloway (20:13):
It is here too, and I’m not. I hide my blue box. But tell me, so you get sent all this stuff and you take notes and you go down the row and you sip all these wines and you clean your palate. Tell me more.

Wendy Mesley (20:30):
Then what happens?

Maureen Holloway (20:31):
Then what happens?

Natalie MacLean (20:33):
The difference between tasting and drinking is thinking and spitting. So you do have to expectorate – spit – or else you will be sloshed. The best time to taste in the day is at 9:00 AM and facing 30 full body Cabernets from Chile is not exactly a lovely thing, although I have no sympathy. No sympathy for my job. But yeah, I will taste usually actually later in the day, compare like to like, line up those bottles. And then what I do, I only take an ounce or two and then spit it out. I re-cork all the bottles and pass them on to other sommelier or writers here in the community so that the wineries who are sending me samples will get more than one review, of course.

Wendy Mesley (21:18):
So we’re not invited over I guess, Maureen.

Maureen Holloway (21:21):
Yeah, yeah. [laughter]

Natalie MacLean (21:22):
No, sadly my friends look oh is that what you do with them? Oh, okay.

Maureen Holloway (21:29):
So what about the artichokes? [laughter]

Natalie MacLean (21:33):
Oh, yeah.

Maureen Holloway (21:34):
So yeah, pairing also, you have a knack for pairing, like unparalleled.

Natalie MacLean (21:39):
It’s my superpower. So artichokes getting to the heart of the matter.

Maureen Holloway


Natalie MacLean

So I come from Nova Scotia, so it’s all about puns and cannot help myself anyway. So artichokes and asparagus both produce a natural organic compound called cerin, which tastes very bitter. So what happens is that after you eat artichokes, everything you eat and drink after that is going to taste sweeter by comparison. So that really wreaks havoc on wine, especially if you have maybe even an off dry, just a little bit of sweetness in your wine. It’s going to taste really cloying and sweet. So the answer or the recommendation I give is to go with a really bone dry white wine. So it’s going to bring up the fruit, make it taste a little sweeter, but not cloying, and your taste buds will be happy and your artichoke will be tasting better as well.

Maureen Holloway (22:34):
Good to know. So we’ve debunked the red only red with red meat and only white with chicken that we’ve broken down those barriers, I guess. But wither Rosé?

Natalie MacLean (22:48):
Oh. Yes, Rosé all day. Although I’m supposed to be talking moderation after this book or else I’ll haven’t learn anything.

Maureen Holloway (22:54):
Or we won’t [laughter].

Natalie MacLean (22:58):
Rosé is a beautiful wine. Just love it. So we have to forget the 1970s, 80s, sweet cloying syrupy pink stuff. Today’s Rosés are beautiful. They could be bone dry, not that they have to be bone dry to be good, because we shouldn’t be doing any wine shaming with people who like sweet wine. Can we stop doing that? But Rosé I love because it has all of the flavour of a red wine often…

Maureen Holloway (23:27):
It’s a baby red, isn’t it? I mean, a lot of people have no idea what Rosé is. Some people think it’s red and white poured together, which…

Natalie MacLean (23:34):
Yeah, that would be the cheap way. But the good way is that you grow good red grapes and it’s called sangée or bleeding, which doesn’t sound good. But it’s the runoff, the lighter pink juice from the first crush of the grapes. So it’s got all that flavour but none of the heavy tannin, oak, and alcohol.

Wendy Mesley (23:54):
Well, I have a quote for you.  And it’s from somebody who makes bread for a living and, well, I don’t know who it’s originally from, but it’s everything in moderation…

Maureen Holloway (24:02):
Including moderation.

Wendy Mesley (24:04):
Including moderation. Yeah, exactly. So I think we should apply that to drinking. So yeah. So you are like a spitter now, right? You used to drink a lot and now you drink just a little.

Maureen Holloway (24:15):
Yeah, that’s got to be tough. That has got to be really tough because you can’t not drink. That’s your job. And I would also while we’re on the subject of tasting and spitting. I mean, do you get the full effect if you don’t swallow? And by the way, if you’re just joining us, we’re talking about wine.

Natalie MacLean (24:34):
It’s a good question. So there’s five aspects to tasting wine: the sight, the smell, the feel, the body, and the finish. The finish is how long after you swallow does that impression last. Five seconds is considered long. As in all sensual pleasures, I think longer is better, but anyway. One to two seconds is short. Three seconds medium. I know that sounds really technical, but it’s basically, is it still coming back to you like a good memory smell wise? Yeah, it is hard to evaluate the wines. You are absorbing through your soft tissue of your mouth anyway. But if you really want to be exact, you let a small trickle go down. But when you’re tasting 30 wines and so on, I have to watch it in terms of how much consuming.

Maureen Holloway (25:29):
Barnyard and I love barnyard.

Natalie MacLean (25:32):
Fruit salad.

Wendy Mesley (25:33):
So how much of it is B.S.? Because they said dandelion this and dog poo this, and yeah. Some of that stuff is like, yeah, you went to school and whatever. And some of it is, oh yeah I do taste the cherries, but I don’t know. Who comes up with all that stuff. And is it all true? You can tell us. Top secret.

Natalie MacLean (26:00):
Okay. Okay. Just between us then. Lean in here. Yeah, the vocabulary of wine has evolved over time and needs to go a long way because there’s even embedded sexism with calling wines feminine and masculine and all the rest of it. But when it comes to this fruit salad stuff, I think that is wine succeeds where words fail because wine is a sensory experience and it’s hard to trap that in words. So people are trying and struggling with all of these descriptors. But when I teach my online courses, I tell my students just smell everything in your world around you. When you cut open fruit or vegetables, that’s when it’s most pungent. Smell it, develop a smell vocabulary. We live in a world that really, we’ve attuned our visual sense and our auditory sense but we’ve lost our sniffer sense that we used to have to avoid dying. So smell everything. Smell the leather furniture.

Maureen Holloway


Natalie MacLean

Just don’t let anybody see you doing it. Smell the cinnamon on your toast. I’m practicing for my wine course, but you have to develop your own vocabulary. One course that I taught, this woman said well that smells like the Dallas airport at everybody’s puzzled. We’re tasting Riesling. And then we put it together. Sometimes Riesling can taste or smell a bit like petrol, and it’s a good thing. So she’s smelling the jet fuel. Another one said that smells like my son’s gerbil cage.

Wendy Mesley (27:35):
We don’t read [inaudible]

Natalie MacLean (27:38):
No you don’t. But it’s a whole lot more realistic.

Maureen Holloway (27:40):
Was it cedar?

Natalie MacLean (27:41):
Yes, the wood chips from the gerbil’s cage. So yeah, you can be real about these descriptors. You don’t have to get all fancy. And it’s about developing your own smell vocabulary so that you heighten your own pleasure. I think what we appreciate or what we understand, we can appreciate a bit more, but it’s okay if you don’t want to. Just drink the wine. Don’t think.

Wendy Mesley (28:01):
Just saying, I sometimes say to my husband, something as profound as it smells like dog poop but in a good way.

Maureen Holloway (28:09):
In a good way. Well, yeah. Well, like manure. There’s that sort of earthy smell. Yeah.

Natalie MacLean (28:15):
Manure. That barnyard thing. Yeah, absolutely. And it’s a common characteristic or aroma in great Pinot Noir. Some people don’t like it for obvious reasons. Sometimes it’s caused by Brettanomyces, which is a bacterial infection. But some people actually like it. So it just depends on your taste.

Maureen Holloway (28:34):
I love, I know it’s weird olfactory. I love the smell of markers and gasoline. You know that…

Natalie MacLean (28:40):
Oh, me too, gasoline. Oh, I could just stay at a gas station all day. But I think my father was a mechanic. I don’t know.

Maureen Holloway (28:48):
But it’s weird. It’s just like that attraction. I don’t want to taste it. I don’t want to, but the smell is heady. Just as an aside, I remember I think it was when the first really expensive candles were being introduced, and there was one that was called Versailles. And I smelled it and I said to the person, I think it was at Liberty in London, and I said this smells a little bit like pee. And she said well it’s funny that you should say that because

Wendy Mesley (29:15):
It’s expensive pee

Maureen Holloway (29:17):
Very expensive. But she said, Versailles, they used to pee behind the tapestries. And so that smell. I know they didn’t have plumbing. And so that smell is sort of imbued in the wood in the. So if you go to Versailles, the distinctness from that and so they put that in the candle. And I’m like wow that’s crazy. I didn’t buy it.

Wendy Mesley (29:38):
You should be a sommelier. I mean, if you could smell the pee then…

Maureen Holloway (29:42):
No, I have my sign. Well, that’s the other thing too. You have to be in a certain. I have. Wendy’s been recovering from a cold for the last six years.

Wendy Mesley (29:52):
[laughter] Six weeks. Six weeks.

Maureen Holloway (29:53):
Six weeks. And it’s allergy season right now. And you’ve got to be especially sensitive to that. Because Covid. What if you lost your sense of taste and smell?

Natalie MacLean (30:03):
Well, during my terrible vintage I did temporarily lose my sense of smell. And I was smelling, tasting, trying a bunch of Shiraz and I was like oh no I don’t smell anything. And it was temporary, but I did some research on it and talked to my doctor. But depression can cause a loss of smell because your brain size shrinks, and the olfactory sense is very sensitive to that. And so I think it was probably related. It scared the heck out of me though, because my nose is my job.

Wendy Mesley (30:37):
We got to wrap up in a minute. But well at first I was struck by the similarities with. I met my dad when I was 18. You met yours when you were 16. That leaves a bit of a mark which may become apparent in another 10 or 15 years. But you talk about, you devote your book to your mom and I think my mom, she died two years ago, and I’ve been thinking about a lot about her since. But it’s all about being brave. And I think, Maureen, I think you and I, I think that’s why we invite people on the podcast is because they’re trying to be brave.

Maureen Holloway (31:14):
No scaredy pants allowed.

Natalie MacLean (31:18):
Just women of ill repute. I love that.

Maureen Holloway (31:21):
Well, that makes us stronger or funny anyway.

Natalie MacLean (31:26):
Absolutely. Just like witches. I think some of these words we just need to stop being afraid of and embrace. I mean, reclaim is an overused word, but for me a witch is a wise woman who’s walked through the flames and emerged on the other side knowing the measure of her powers and embrace them.

Maureen Holloway (31:44):
Which is why the book is called – I want to call it the Wine, the Witch, and the Wardrobe but it’s Wine Witch on Fire. And are you going to be doing a book tour or is it…

Natalie MacLean (31:54):
I am. So there’s always books and bottles.

Wendy Mesley (31:58):
No, she’s in the field.

Maureen Holloway (32:01):
Yeah in the field. She’s out standing in her field. Yeah,

Natalie MacLean (32:03):
I’m in the field [laughter]. You know where to get me.

Maureen Holloway (32:07):
If you’re watching us on YouTube, you’ll see that. That’s a beautiful mural. Natalie MacLean, you are just as we’re going to say after you leave, wasn’t she lovely.

Maureen Holloway, Wendy Mesley, Natalie MacLean


Maureen Holloway

Thank you so much for being so open and helpful and now we know what to pair with artichokes. That’s the very least that we’ve learned this week.

Natalie MacLean (32:28):
I’m glad that I could help you with that. That was my number one mission and reason for being here today. If anything, I can save them from their artichoke disasters. Seriously, I so appreciate both of you allowing me to chat with you and by extension your audience. I have binge listened to all of your episodes and absolutely love your take on life and would love to have a glass of wine with you sometime.

Maureen Holloway (32:52):
Oh, that’s almost certain to happen. And your newsletter. Just to subscribe just go to

Natalie MacLean (33:00):
And sometimes people find that hard to spell. There’s many ways to spell it. So I’ve also got the URL right now for the book. I’ve got bonuses for the book. If people purchase it, I’ll send them sign book plates. There’s a free companion guide for book clubs, wine groups, and individual readers. So there’s lots of stuff there at

Wendy Mesley (33:19):
And Maureen and I will be by your house…

Maureen Holloway

Leave your empties outside…

Natalie MacLean (33:24):
[laughter] Recycling Day is on Fridays. So book your  tickets.

Maureen Holloway (33:26):
Natalie MacLean, thank you so much.

Natalie MacLean (33:30):
Oh, thank you both. Cheers.

Maureen Holloway (33:32):

Wendy Mesley (33:32):
Bye. Thank you.

Maureen Holloway (33:35):
Well, she was lovely [laughter]

Wendy Mesley (33:41):
Well, some are lovelier than others.

Maureen Holloway (33:43):
They are.

Wendy Mesley (33:44):
I get very nervous talking about the whole cancellation thing that…

Maureen Holloway (33:47):
I know you do. I know. But it’s amazing how many times we’ve had guests on in the past who have. And that’s kind of one of the reasons why we started this podcast is there are people that come up against – and not just women –  who come up against some serious roadblock in their careers or their personal lives and have to get around it. And we bring empathy to the table because that’s happened to us.

Wendy Mesley (34:13):
Yeah. There were so many other things I wanted to ask her…

Maureen Holloway (34:16):
Tomatoes. Hard to pair.

Wendy Mesley (34:18):
Well, an asparagus. I mean, I didn’t know that asparagus and artichokes are in the same family, but only one makes your pee funny. So we didn’t get to talk about the really important things.

Maureen Holloway (34:29):
I think we covered it all off. Yeah. You’ve been to wine tastings, haven’t you? Where you do spit into the thing? I’ve been to a few.

Wendy Mesley (34:39):
Yeah. No, my husband’s really into wine and he would spend his days spitting in the glasses, and I’m like oh look outside. I’m not really interested.

Maureen Holloway (34:48):
To me, it’s like wo, this is good. My reaction is not to spit it. This is good. I’ll have more.

Wendy Mesley (34:55):
Yeah. I don’t know how many times we dropped the hint. We’d like to come over and collect the bottles.

Maureen Holloway (34:59):
Yeah. Well, I think we’d absolutely be welcome to. Well not collect. I think she’d like to have a glass of wine. I’d like to have a glass of wine with her. I’d like to have a glass of one with a lot of our guests so I guess that’s a good thing, except for the ones that don’t drink, but still. They could have ginger ale.

Wendy Mesley (35:15):
Yeah. Well, we didn’t get into the study, so we’ll have to have a conversation about. I don’t think it was two sips a week and it was two glasses a week.

Maureen Holloway (35:25):
Yeah, I know. That was maybe the worst news of 2022.

Wendy Mesley (35:29):
Yeah. Well, can’t fix everything at once. Chins up.

Maureen Holloway (35:35):
Bottoms up. Cheers. Bye.

Natalie MacLean

Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed our chat with Wendy and Maureen. In the show notes, you’ll find the full transcript of my conversation with them, links to their website and podcast, the video versions of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube live, and where you can order my book online now no matter where you live. That’s all in the show notes at Email me if you have a sip, tip, question or if you’ve read my book or are in the process of reading it at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you.

If you missed episode 94, go back and take a listen. I chat with Dragons Den TV host and entrepreneur, Arlene Dickenson, about wine, women, and business. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Arlene Dickenson (36:39):
Wines evolve with time, just like stories change and grow bigger with time. There really is no end to the wine story. That’s what I love about it. Every time I open a bottle of my wine – it’s a 2010 blend –  and when I open it now, I think, see it’s changing so much and it’s growing and it’s maturing, and it’s fantastic. Just like a good story, right?

Natalie MacLean

Excellent, wow. Way to tie them together.

Natalie MacLean (37:08):
If you like this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone who’d be interested in the wines tips and stories we shared you won’t want to miss next week when we chat with Anna Brittain, the executive director of the Napa Green Program, to chat about how wine can make a positive impact on the environment. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a refreshing Rosé or one that has a little age and wisdom in it.

You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full-bodied bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at Meet me here next week. Cheers.