The Smart Woman Behind the Wine for Dummies Books: Mary Ewing-Mulligan MW



In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, we’re chatting with Mary Ewing-Mulligan, president of the International Wine Center and the first woman in America to become a Master of Wine. She’s also just published the seventh edition of the book “Wine For Dummies.” Mary’s motto “Peace. Community. Wine.” is a wonderful summary of the work she’s doing in the wine industry, from wine education to advocating for women in the industry, to her tenacity and determination to achieve the highest designation and continuing to grow her knowledge and ability. I really enjoyed this fantastic chat and I know you’ll get a lot from her journey. Enjoy!



  • Where do Mary’s passions for wine and for cats overlap?
  • How did Mary meet her husband?
  • Where did Mary get the idea to write Wine for Dummies?
  • Does the “for Dummies” title ever get a negative reception?
  • What changes are made in new editions of Wine for Dummies?
  • When did Mary decide to test for the Master of Wine program?
  • How long did it take for Mary to achieve the Master of Wine designation?
  • What did Mary do to improve over her three attempts at the tasting portion of the Master of Wine test?
  • How did Mary start out at the International Wine Center?
  • Is continuing education required once you achieve the Master of Wine designation?
  • What are Mary’s thoughts on the current situation for women in the wine industry?
  • How can veteran women in the wine industry support younger women just starting out?
  • Is the impact of climate change on the wine industry being discussed by industry leaders?
  • Does Mary score wines?
  • Can a wine be scored on its own or should it be compared to the gold standard of its category?
  • If Mary could put up a billboard in downtown Toronto, what would it say?
  • What is Mary’s favourite wine gadget?
  • What is Mary’s advice about pursuing wine education?


About Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Mary Ewing-Mulligan, president of International Wine Center, is the first woman in America to become a Master of Wine. This title represents the highest level of knowledge and proficiency in the wine trade. Currently, 369 individuals worldwide are Masters of Wine, including 45 in the U.S.

In addition to heading International Wine Center, Mary is a co-author (with her husband, Ed McCarthy) of “Wine For Dummies” and “Wine Style, Using your senses to explore and enjoy wine,” both published by John Wiley & Sons. With more than one million copies sold, translations into 38 languages, and an audio tape, Wine For Dummies is the fastest-selling wine book ever in the U.S. The couple have also authored White Wine For Dummies, Red Wine For Dummies, Wine Buying Companion For Dummies, Italian Wine For Dummies and French Wine For Dummies.

Mary Ewing-Mulligan was wine columnist for The Daily News in New York City for more than ten years, as well as a columnist for trade magazines, “Nation’s Restaurant News” and “Beverage Dynamics.” She also contributed wine articles to several publications in the U.S. and England. She is a past president of the Institute of Masters of Wine (North America) and currently serves as one of its Directors.




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Transcript & Takeaways

Welcome to episode 33!

In today’s episode, we’re chatting with the ultra-smart and witty Mary Ewing-Mulligan, Master of Wine and president of International Wine Center in New York City. She’s also just published the seventh edition of the book “Wine For Dummies.”

A quick note. Mary shares with us her favourite wine gadget near the end of the episode. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes so you know where you can buy it — it’s just so useful. Yes, I’m teasing you with this as I’m not going to tell you what it is … you’ll have to stick around to find out what it is.

Now before we dive into our chat, I wanted to thank Cynthia Coutu who hosts Champagne tasting classes and networking events for women in Paris, France. I love the niche she’s created with her business, and you can find out more about her events at I’ll include a link to her website in the show notes at

Cynthia wrote this on Facebook: “I’m a proud Canadian living in France and working in the wine industry. I get a lot of questions about Canadian wines from the French. I just discovered this fantastic podcast episode that does a deep dive into Canada’s wine history, economy, regulatory framework, etc. Listen to the podcast from Natalie MacLean, and you’ll get all the answers to your questions.

Well, thank-you so much Cynthia – you made my week! She’s referring to episode 30 which is all about Canadian wines. In other episodes, we cover other regions and topics, but this was a special one to celebrate Canada Day.

It means so much to me when you post a review on social media or on Apple Podcasts, formerly iTunes. If you do that, let me know and I’ll give you a shout out on this podcast.

Plus, I have a brand new bonus for those of you who post a review starting today. I’ve just developed my Ultimate Food & Wine Pairing Guide. It’s a quick template covering the major food matches for red, white, rose and dessert wines. It’s visually very appealing and I know you’ll get tons of use from it.

If you want me to send you a free copy of this Food & Wine Pairing Guide, just email me at and tell me where you posted your review.

Now on to our fantastic chat with Mary Ewing Mulligan. Enjoy!


You can also watch the video interview with Mary that includes bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers that weren’t included in this podcast.


Mary has such terrific wine wisdom! Here are my takeaways from this discussion:

  1. Mary has that rare combination of extreme expertise and practical humility. It shows in how she first thought that the Dummies franchise would be a great fit for wine, without having to talk down to people.
  2. I admire her tenacity in getting through the gruelling Master of Wine program and focusing on her tasting notes to explain her thinking, even when she may not have guessed the exact wine correctly.
  3. She poses some important questions with how climate change will impact winemaking and the styles of wine we enjoy.
  4. She’s doing important work for women in the wine industry, not only as a role model but also with her wine council initiatives.
  5. I’m adopting her motto: Peace. Community. Wine.

You’ll find links to Mary’s books, website, social media handles, the Wine Repour gadget she recommended as well as Dr. Emile Peynaud’s book, the Taste of Wine in the show notes at

Did you know that you can now listen to this podcast on your smart speaker? Just say: “Hey Google” or for Amazon’s Echo, use her name that begins with A … I won’t say it now as it’ll set off your device and mine.

So I’ll say Madame A as in “Madam A — play the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast.” I’d love to chat about wine with you while you’re doing the dishes, the laundry, having breakfast, lunch or dinner … it’s always wine time.

What was your favourite tip or quote from this episode? Share that with me on Twitter or Facebook and tag me @nataliemaclean, on Instagram I’m @nataliemacleanwine.

If you liked this episode, please tell a friend about it, especially one who’s interested in the issues that Mary discussed. My podcast is easy to find, whether you search Google on its name Unreserved Wine Talk, or on my name.

Finally, if you want to take your ability to pair wine and food to the next level, join me in a free online video class at

On next week’s show, I’ll be chatting about the challenge of pairing seafood and wine, the real dangers of flying Champagne corks and the new trend of sober curious as recently reported in the New York Times.

I can’t wait to share more wine stories with you.

Thank-you for taking the time to listen to this one. I hope something great is in your glass this week!



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