Which new and emerging wine regions should be on your radar to try soon? Why should you pay more for wine? How does glassware change the taste of your wine?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
Join me on Instagram, Facebook and 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:
Three of you who are based in the U.S. are going to win a personally signed copy of Karen MacNeil’s terrific new book, The Wine Bible.
How to Win
To qualify, all you have to do is email me at [email protected] and tell me that you’d like to win the book. I’ll select the winners randomly from those who participate.
- Which new regions and eras did Karen include in this new edition of The Wine Bible, and why?
- After writing the first edition, what important lesson did Karen take away about planning her writing?
- Why was Greece the most difficult region for Karen to research for The Wine Bible?
- How did shipping restrictions make it almost impossible for Karen to sample Canadian wines?
- What tragic outcome awaits Vitis vinifera if climate change continues on its current trajectory?
- What can we do as wine buyers to help mitigate the impact of climate change?
- Why should you pay more for wine?
- Which historic food and wine pairings did Karen discover when researching The Wine Bible?
- What’s Karen’s favourite weird wine and food pairing?
- How can you test the importance of glassware to wine?
- Why did Karen create her Flavor First™ Wine Glasses?
- Which controversial take does Karen have on wine glasses and food pairing?
- Which wine gadget does Karen find indispensable?
- Why does Karen have a glass of Champagne every night?
- How does Karen ensure she’s drinking and tasting mindfully?
- Which political figures would Karen love to share a bottle of wine with?
- I love the new and emerging wine regions Karen puts on your radar to try, like sparkling wine from England.
- She makes a great case for paying more for wine, especially when you do an apples-to-apples comparison between the cost of that overpriced latte and a glass of wine. She’s right that we can’t want to drink super inexpensively and want our wine to be organic, biodynamic, and as natural as it can be at the same time. It doesn’t compute financially.
- I’m intrigued to try her line of glassware based on flavour rather than grape.
Start The Conversation: Click Below to Share These Wine Tips
Great Britain is one of the few places global warming has been kind to when it comes to winemaking. - Karen MacNeil Click to tweet
It’s a little bit like running a marathon; you’re going to spend years writing your book and there’s nobody there to motivate you. - Karen MacNeil Click to tweet
Canada makes such delicious wines but the problem is they’re not sold in the United States, which makes no sense. - Karen MacNeil Click to tweet
We need to accept that wine will probably no longer be sold in glass bottles within the next 20 years. - Karen MacNeil Click to tweet
You cannot simultaneously want to drink super inexpensively and want your wine to be organic, biodynamic, and as natural as it can be. That just doesn’t compute. - Karen MacNeil Click to tweet
About Karen MacNeil
One of the foremost wine experts in the United States, Karen MacNeil is the only American to have won every major wine award given in the English Language. In a full-page profile on her, Time magazine called Karen, “America’s Missionary of the Vine.” Karen is the author of the award-winning book THE WINE BIBLE, the single bestselling wine book in the United States, with more than 800,000 copies sold. She is the creator and editor of WineSpeed, the top digital newsletter in wine in the United States. Known for her passion and unique style, she conducts seminars and presentations for corporate clients worldwide. The former wine correspondent for the Today show on NBC, Karen was also the host of the PBS series Wine, Food & Friends with Karen MacNeil, for which she won an Emmy. And finally, Karen is the creator and Chairman Emeritus of the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America, which has been called the “Harvard of wine education”. Karen has just published the third edition of her award-winning book The Wine Bible, the single bestselling wine book in the United States, with more than a million copies sold.
- Connect with Karen MacNeil
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 91: The Wine Bible’s Karen MacNeil on Women and Wine
- Diary of a Book Launch: An Insider Peek from Idea to Publication
- My Books:
- My new class The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner And How To Fix Them Forever
Tag Me on Social
Tag me on social media if you enjoyed the episode:
- @nataliemaclean and @natdecants on Facebook
- @nataliemaclean on Twitter
- @nataliemacleanwine on Instagram
- @nataliemaclean on LinkedIn
- Email Me at [email protected]
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 Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and other country-specific Amazon sites; iTunes.ca, iTunes.com and other country-specific iTunes sites; Audible.ca and Audible.com.
Karen MacNeil 0:00
You cannot simultaneously want to drink super inexpensively and want your wine to be organic, maybe biodynamic, as natural as it can be. That just doesn’t compute because the least expensive wines tend to be the most manipulated wines. That’s how they get to be drinkable for only $5 a bottle.
Natalie MacLean 0:27
You’ve mentioned that these cheaper wines are often stripped down, like they’ve been neutered because the base grapes are not that great. And then they’ve been rebuilt back up with oak chips or they’re adding dyes or whatever they put back in. But it’s all to keep the costs down.
Karen MacNeil 0:45
Yeah. As long as you know that, then you’re an informed consumer.
Natalie MacLean 0:57
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 210. Which new and emerging wine regions should be on your radar to try soon? Why should you pay more for wine? And how does glassware change the taste of your wine? You’ll hear those tips and stories in Part Two of our chat with Karen MacNeil author of The Wine Bible, the single best selling wine book in North America, with more than a million copies sold. Karen’s just published the third edition of the book and it is gorgeous. It’s a full colour 700 page masterwork. Three of you in the continental US are going to win a signed copy of her book. All you have to do is email me at [email protected] And let me know you want to win. I’ll choose three people randomly.
Now a quick update on my upcoming memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much. Every time I get closer to finishing a manuscript for a book, I start emailing an electronic copy of it every day to my mother. That’s because I have an irrational fear that I’m going to be hit by a bus or some other disaster and my book will never see the light of day. It’s one thing if your book is nowhere near finished, but it’s quite another when it’s close to the end. Call me morbid, but my sense of urgency feels like a flame to get this message out into the world and not let it die on the page or in a computer file somewhere. I’m also starting to get that feeling that writing this book is the last thing I could do. And that would be okay. I’ve done what I was made to do on this planet and have answered my highest calling. I’ll share a review from you now from Mark Ball, who is a beta reader from Toronto: “Suspenseful. I kept racing ahead to find out what happened next. Anyone who’s been through a traumatic life event, death relationship, job loss, etc. will relate to so much of what she experienced in the emotions she shares. Natalie shares things that almost all readers can relate to. There’s also practical advice and encouragement for a better future. In terms of the attacks from personal relationships to professional ones, we’ve all experienced something similar. Professionally, I doubt many of us have been hammered to the extent that she was but many of us have felt that was happening behind our backs. As for the industry unpacked, there is a lot that needs to be brought into the light. References to Anthony Bourdain are well founded with the strength of voice in Me, Too. There are new voices that need to be heard, who speak not just to scores and technical details of wine but also to the emotional feel of wine circumstances that energy and passion that is brought to her media hits. Keep doing what you’re doing, Natalie, I believe Katharine Hepburn said “If you obey all the rules, you’ll miss all the fun”. Stay strong. Thank you Mark.
I posted a link to a blog post called Diary of a Book Launch in the show notes at NatalieMaclean.com/210. This is where I share more behind the scenes stories about the journey of taking this memoir from idea to publication. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please is let me know you’d like to become a beta reader and get a sneak peek at this manuscript, email me at [email protected] Okay, on with the show.
Natalie MacLean 5:16
Now you have several new regions that are part of this book. Which ones are they and why did you choose to include them?
Karen MacNeil 5:24
One of them that I just loved writing about was the chapter on Great Britain. England is a fast up and coming wine region. And English wine country is about just an hour south of London. So it’s easy to get to. But it turns out, as you would know, that that big arc of limestone that starts in Champagne kind of arcs up over Paris becomes the White Cliffs of Dover, then goes right down underneath what are called the north and south, the downs of southern England. And so the sparkling wines there are fantastic. They bear such a tremendous similarity to Champagne but have their own freshness about them because southern England, unlike Champagne, is a coastal region. So there. Just went there for the first time in 2018 and I was just so astounded by the quality. If you had said to me 20 years ago you know all wine books will one day have a chapter on Great Britain, I would think probably not. But that’s one of the places that global warming has been kind to. In most other regions, global warming has been climate chaos. It’s it’s been very devastating. But I loved it writing that. And I loved writing a new chapter I put in called Wine in the Ancient World is Right. And that was very hard to write about.
And the reason I put it in, in part, was because I knew it was going to be hard to write about because if someone just in a restaurant leaned over to me and said, okay so describe wine in the ancient world, I’d be like where to start? Where did wine begin? Because we all here you know oh wine began and Armenia or Israel or Turkey or China? Where did it begin? And when did it begin? So as I did the research for that chapter, I had to make myself a handwritten chart to just get equalized times you know because one person’s 5000 BC is another anthropologist 7000 years ago this happened. And then some scientists speak of, you know, this happened in the Palaeolithic Era. And this happened during the Iron Age. So, you know, I had to make all that equal. And then I realized, oh no oh no something I didn’t know before. And that’s that those ages, the Neolithic Age, in particular, is different by country. So the Neolithic era, which is the most important one for wine, is different in China than it is in the Near East, in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, western Turkey.
Natalie MacLean 8:25
Is that due to climate or was it due to just societal development?
Karen MacNeil 8:29
Yes, societal development. The Neolithic era is when pottery is created. And so that happens earlier in China than it does in Europe. And pottery was critical because for the first time humans could store liquids and solids. And that led to permanent settlements where people lived permanently instead of being nomadic. And that led to the domestication of crops, including grapevines as vineyards.
Natalie MacLean 9:03
Wow, it all fits together. It’s great.
Karen MacNeil 9:08
It’s that Neolithic. That’s the one age. And now I really know pottery is invented and everything is like a domino from that point on.
Natalie MacLean 9:17
Wow. There you go. Okay. And so what was the most difficult region to research?
Karen MacNeil 9:24
I made the mistake in Wine Bible one of leaving Italy and Germany to the end. This is the biggest mistake a writer can make because it’s a little bit like running a marathon. You’re gonna spend years on this book and you have to be your own motivator because no one’s going to see it, right. It’s very solitary. It’s not like someone is saying “good job”, “good work”, “love this chapter”. You’re just there with yourself and words. You know this. You’ve written several scripts. And so I thought oh boy do not leave places that are hard to write about, hard from a research standpoint, to the end when you’re already getting kind of tired from all this writing. So I think I wrote Italy second this time. I wrote Oregon first because you got to ease yourself in. And then Italy, you know, you just want to say chaos turn the page. I love Italy but figuring out. Italy has a very loose relationship with the rules. So they are, you know. For everything you can say you could make five cases of people who never do it that way. No, it isn’t that variety. Yes it is. Italy’s a challenge.
Natalie MacLean 10:51
You’ve also mentioned that Italy is acronym hell. I think you’ve mentioned that.
Karen MacNeil 10:56
Yes, it is. You know DOC, DOCG, IGT. What is all this?
Natalie MacLean 11:12
Oh, my goodness. And so was there a tough region for this addition to research? Like you got upfront with Italy, but was there another?
Karen MacNeil 11:21
Yes. Greece is always very hard to research. Because it’s hard to find sources of actual information apart from the wineries themselves. And also because of a very simple fact which is that some wines are written about. It’s a very mixed up way that I think that they have appellations. Anything that you want to write about could be written in English, Greek using the Greek alphabet, a kind of translated version of English into sort of modern Greek. So you have to line up names that can be very hard and decide what you’re going to call these places which sometimes have four names for the same either place or idea. So Greece is a bit of a challenge. China can be a statistical challenge because the way they collect information in China is hard. And Germany was hard this time because there are almost now two parallel systems by which you can find German wines. And I felt like I needed to explain them both.
Natalie MacLean 12:35
Wow. Thank you for your service. Was Canada challenge at all? We’re sorry.
What is with you guys?
I’m gonna say it we’re sorry. We’re always sorry for everything.
Karen MacNeil 12:47
You know I love Canadian wine. Canada make such delicious wines both in Ontario and in British Columbia. But the problem there is they’re not sold in the United States which makes no sense. California wines are sold in Canada. It should be reciprocal.
Natalie MacLean 13:05
Yes, it’s easier for us to get California wines here in Ontario than for us to get BC wines from our own country. Across shipping across. The shipping is a nightmare nightmare.
Karen MacNeil 13:20
It is a nightmare. And so trying to get samples of some of the Canadian wine that I wanted to try that I hadn’t was very hard. I actually had to ask, I won’t say who, but I had to ask a Canadian journalist friend to round up certain samples for me and send them to me as olive oil.
Natalie MacLean 13:34
Smuggling ring, right? That’s the way we have to do it. It’s like, right back to prohibition days. Its unbelievable.
Karen MacNeil 13:39
It’s so Canada. Here’s another place where climate. The situation with the climate may be beneficial. Cool northern places like Canada have in all kinds of ways such a beautiful future ahead of them.
Natalie MacLean 13:59
We hope so. But you know you’ve mentioned climate chaos. I’ve heard the term climate or Global Weirding. And we certainly have experienced that you know with late frosts or freak hail storms or whatever. But yeah we shall see. And you’ve mentioned some interesting things in other conversations that you’ve had. You referenced a scientific study that said all grape vines could be extinct in 28 years grape vines made for wine.
Karen MacNeil 14:25
It’s astounding. You know, the phrase that rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, meaning that people are focused on little things when there’s an enormous threat at hand. And yes the more one looks into the climate issue, the more alarmed you become because it isn’t a matter of just let’s plant more trees to sequester more carbon. Whole crops are in danger of going extinct within the next 30 years. And it’s worrisome for grape vines, especially vitis vinifera because the species vitis vinifera, to which all of the wines we normally drink belong – Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Cabernet, Chardonnay, etc. – is in what is known as an indicator crop. It’s very sensitive to changes in climate to changes in water supply. And so, yes, grapevines could well begin to go extinct in about 28 years.
Natalie MacLean 15:39
So it’s not a matter of that they would just migrate north and find new homes. They could still become extinct even so?
Karen MacNeil 15:47
It’s helpful to move north. But some varieties that are very tentative varieties. You know, there are a lot of great varieties in the world, many of which have been rescued from near extinction in places like Greece and Italy and Turkey and Armenia recently, and Georgia of course. But the idea that we’re going to rescue very fragile varieties probably will cease to happen as people begin to think never mind all these obscure varieties, can we keep Pinot Noir? Can we keep it going in Canada, in Sweden, in Denmark, or high in the Himalayas? Or the turbulence is going to get rocky pretty quickly here.
Natalie MacLean 16:33
What can we do as wine drinkers to our small part or whatever? What can we do with our buying choices to help mitigate the impact of climate change?
Karen MacNeil 16:43
It’s hard to know. And it’s frustrating because so many people I think we’d be willing to help if there was a way. One of the things that we as consumers will soon face and will need to accept is that wine, probably within the next 20 years, will no longer be sold in glass bottles. One of the winery’s biggest carbon footprints comes from glass bottles and glass bottles for wine are never reused. Most glass, even when you put it in the recycling in the United States, I think the percentage is truly only about 35% of glass gets recycle. But glass to make glass, right, you have to burn fossil fuels in huge furnaces, most of which are either in Asia, in China or in Europe. And glass is heavy to transport and so consumes a lot of fossil fuels that way. And the world is running out of sand, a main component in glass. So glass is a big problem. And pretty soon when we see wine coming in either paper glass bottles or other kinds of delivery mechanisms similar to bag in the box, I think we’re going to have to accept that.
Natalie MacLean 18:07
Embrace it. And at least as a starter, stop buying those heavy, extra heavy glass bottles that say hey I’m a good wine. It’s like how about you just prove yourself by what’s inside the bottle. But yeah, and then the other thing I think you had suggested was paying more for wine because pricier wines tend to be less manipulated.
Karen MacNeil 18:29
Yeah, I’m always troubled when people talk about how expensive they believe wine to be. And the wine that I recommended was 35 US dollars. So I sent the article in and the editor calls me up and she said, $35 that’s a huge amount.Who’s going to buy a wine for $35? I said, oh and so I am thinking about this magazine and I said your magazine headquarters is on Madison Avenue, right? Like Madison in the ’50s or ’60s? She said, yes I said are you like a tea drinker? Coffee drinker? Coffee drinker, great lattes. What is a latte cost on Madison Avenue in New York these days? She says it cost $6. I said and you’re doing two a day. Yep. Two a day. Great. $12 on beverages. Thank you because this wine costs $8 a glass. It’s not $35. It’s $8, right. And that’s simple math. We forget we forget that we’re okay you know a $40 bottle of Champagne. You’re not splurging with $40. You’re giving yourself an $8 gift. It’s fine in a sense well hopefully. And there are certainly a lot of wonderful wines that cost a lot less less even than that. But I do think that you cannot simultaneously want to drink super inexpensively and want your wine to be organic, maybe biodynamic, as natural as it can be. That just doesn’t compute because the least expensive wines tend to be the most manipulated wines. That’s how they get to be drinkable for only $5 a bottle. So you can’t kind of have it both ways.
And there are times when I am just shocked that a beautiful wine can really even make it here for $20 a bottle. I’m writing about one today in our digital newsletter Wine Speed. It’s a Spanish wine made in, it’s a Garnacha, made in a place called Campo de Borja. And it’s $20. And I think Oh My God this is astounding. I actually wanted to call them up and say you need to charge more for this. Because it must be very hard to produce such a beautiful wine at such a reasonable cost.
Natalie MacLean 21:08
That is true. And you’ve mentioned that these cheaper wines, like really cheap wines, are often you know they’re stripped down like they’ve been neutered almost because what’s there the base grapes are not that great. And then they’ve been rebuilt back up with oak chips or whatever they’re adding. Dyes or whatever they put back in and rebuilt but not in a very authentic way, but it’s all to keep the cost down.
Karen MacNeil 21:35
Yeah. So I mean as long as you know that then you’re an informed consumer. But the idea that a wine like Two Buck Chuck that there’s a vineyard somewhere that is pristine and beautifully cared for and isn’t this Two Buck Chuck delicious. It’s just not the case. You know that wine is it could be an oil refinery. It is being highly manipulated to give you a beverage that is palatable and has alcohol in it, but it is certainly not from one of the world’s great cared for vineyards.
Natalie MacLean 22:14
Absolutely. So I’d love to know, you’ve also got a section in your book you add in historic food and wine pairings. What was the most interesting one that you discovered along the way?
Karen MacNeil 22:24
I love to write about the foods of any given wine region. And all of the top chapters have foods of that region, which are different than foods to go with that wine. When it comes to food and wine pairing, I always say that it’s more important to match wine to mood than to match wine to food. I really believe that.
But that said wine regions are often, because people are thinking about flavour, they’re often really great food regions. So researching the history the foods that have been traditionally in the region is one way of kind of like end running and tackling wine from the other side. But there are interesting facts when you do that. I mean I only discovered by researching the wines of Austria, I discovered that so called French croissants. Croissants are not French. They began in Austria. And the other night I was drinking an Amarone from northern Italy, famous wine Amarone, and I asked the people I was wit do you know what the traditional dish is where Amarone is made? And in fact many people to this day drink Amarone with this dish. And people thought. Nobody raised their hand. This was a class I was giving. And it turns out that the traditional dish with Amarone i is horsemeat. And to this day in the Veneto, in the region where Amarone is made, there are separate butchers – you can’t be can’t sell horse meat in Italy in the same physical store as you sell beef and chicken and it has to have its own store. It’s very traditional to have horse meat and Amarone.
Natalie MacLean 24:26
Sorry, why did they separate it? I’m just curious. Why wouldn’t they allow it to be in grocery stores?
Karen MacNeil 24:31
I think because during the World Wars horse meat. Northern Italy was very poor and horse meat, eating horse meat was very common. After the World Wars, both One and Two, when Italy regained some financial stability, some people cut corners saying that horse meat was off not when it was not. And so to mitigate false practices, deceptive practices, a very simple and interesting solution was well they just can’t be sold in the same store okay. But those sorts of things are fascinating to me because they tell you about the people, the culture. A lot of cuisine in Europe is poor people’s cuisine, especially because of World Wars One and Two. And so maybe too because I started out as a food writer, I’m always fascinated by the foods of a place.
Natalie MacLean 25:27
Absolutely. And what’s your favourite sort of strange or weird minded food pairing?
Karen MacNeil 25:33
One of the ones that I love is – I am a big cookie person. I love cookies. So I know its terrible.
Natalie MacLean 25:40
There’s no guilty pleasure. There’s just pleasure. Embrace it.
Karen MacNeil 25:43
Yeah, I love chocolate chip cookies with Madeira. Chocolate chip cookies are first of all of course great. Who doesn’t like a chocolate chip cookie?. But Madeira is such a fascinating wine, not only because of the unique way it’s made and lovingly painstakingly long way that it’s made, but also because during the birth of America or rather birth of the United States, at that time Madeira was very fashionable. Madeira parties were the forerunners of cocktail parties in the United States. Madeira was the wine that was drunk at the signing of the Declaration of Independence in the US, the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. It was the wine served at all the continental Congresses. It had very strong patriotic associations. And we’ve kind of forgotten that these days in the US. But it’s a spectacular beverage. And it’s great with chocolate.
Natalie MacLean 26:47
Yeah, well, it’s fortified, it’s sweet, but it’s also very layered. And yeah, it would definitely stand up to those cookies. That is great. All right. Now you have this section on mastering wine. You talk about glassware. But I just thought this would be a good opportunity to ask about your own glassware. Why is glassware important? And then what was the idea behind your own line of glassware?
Karen MacNeil 27:12
Yes. Glassware is easy to prove to yourself its importance by getting a good glass and tasting the same wine in that glass and then two or three other either wine glasses or it could be a jelly jar or anything. And it’s not entirely clear scientifically exactly what is happening, but every wine lover who’s ever done this knows that glass shape and size dimension profoundly affects the flavour of the wine. And in the last few years, I suppose it started in the 1980s with George Riedel. But in the last few years, a number of fabulous glasses have come on the market. Among connoisseurs, Zalto glasses or Gabrielle glass or Jancis Robinson’s fabulous glass are all available now. For me, the problem was that all of those glasses are about $50 or more per stem. And one of the behaviours that makes complete sense is that the more expensive the glass, the less someone is likely to use it. Because you don’t want to break something that costs $50. And so you don’t handle it as much. And pretty soon, the beautiful glasses that you bought are back in their box and in the attic or in the basement.
So I wanted to see if I could design a glass that was really good for wine, that was easy to understand, and that would cost about $10 a stem instead of $50 a stem. And the more I thought about and researched glasses, I realized two things. One is that glasses represent something that the wine industry does all the time, which is that you have to know something to know something which drives me crazy. The best example is you know like the Burgundy glass. Well, okay, in order to know how to use the Burgundy glass, you have to know what Burgundy is. What does that mean? Why is this a Burgundy glass?
Natalie MacLean 29:29
And what grape is it?
Karen MacNeil 29:32
What grape variety is it? Exactly. So you have to know something to know something. And I thought why are glasses named after wine regions anyway? Why is there a Bordeaux glass and a Burgundy glass? And then an offshoot of that is well if every glass is named for a variety, now you have to know something about Sangiovese to drink out of the Sangiovese glass versus the Tempranillo glass or the Zinfandel glass. So all of this as I’m thinking about it walking down the street, I thought to myself why can’t glasses just be named for flavour? Because I know as a teacher, and you do, too, that when you ask people what kind of wine they like people usually answer very simply I like big reds or you know I like crisp whites.
So this caused me to do a two year experiment with different glass shapes and trying to figure out what were the key ideas about a glass that caused wine to be different? And then could you design glasses around flavour? Could there be a glass for bold and powerful wines, a glass for fresh and crisp wines, a glass for creamy and silky wines? And those are the three glasses in my Flavour First Collection.
So it’s called the Favour First Collection by Karen MacNeil. They’re all the same height. You know, who wants different heights of glasses in their cabinet or in their dishwasher? And they’re designed for those three styles of wine. So into the fresh and crisp glass you could put Rosé, you could put Pinot Grigio, you could put Champagne, you could put Prosecco, you could put Sauvignon Blanc.
Could you put a red in there?
Yes, you could put a red in there. Actually, Sangiovese tastes quite good and fresh and crisp glass.
Natalie MacLean 31:32
That’s a great concept. And they can go in the dishwasher, too?
Karen MacNeil 31:35
Oh, absolutely. Because you know, they have to go in the dish washer.
Natalie MacLean 31:39
We don’t have someone we can call in to clean all the glassware. All right. Oh, my goodness, I just have so many more questions and this will end up being as long as The Wine Bible if I keep going here. But let me just scroll down here because I just want to maybe perhaps get to the lightning round here. Karen, is there something that you believe about wine with which some people would disagree?
Karen MacNeil 32:06
Well, I think the idea that you don’t have to match wine and food all the time. There would be people who would disagree with that. As something else that is maybe controversial is I don’t think there should be white wine glasses. I don’t think white wine glasses should exist. The whole premise of white wine glasses, probably historically, was that white wine was somehow lesser than red wine. And it should be more dainty kind of like smaller. That makes no sense. What else would I? I don’t know about that, Natalie. That’s a good question.
Natalie MacLean 32:45
That is fine. Is there been a useful wine gadget you’ve come across? Of course your own glassware. Is there anything else that you’ve discovered that you really love to use?
Karen MacNeil 32:54
I could not live without a Bouchon, one of those stoppers that you put in sparkling wine and Champagne. In fact, one is in my suitcase right now because who knows when someone might open up a bottle of Champagne. And you want to keep those bubbles in. I love those Bouchons. And we have tonnes of them in my office. They’re, they’re not expensive. You can get them on Amazon for $15. And they’ll keep a bottle of sparkling wine or Champagne fresh.
Natalie MacLean 33:23
Yeah. Because that leads me to one question I did mean to ask you. I’ve heard you have a glass of Champagne every night. Is that true?
Karen MacNeil 33:31
It is true. I don’t drive a very fancy car. And I’m pretty modest when it comes to clothes. But I think a glass of Champagne every night is the way I love to sort of demarcate the day from the night. And even in my office. If we’re working you know let’s say it’s six o’clock, everybody knows we’re gonna open a bottle of Champagne. People can work with a glass of Champagne beside the computer, you know. And besides, it’s really indispensable to marital harmony.
Natalie MacLean 34:07
That is right. Saves more marriages than orange juice for sure.
Karen MacNeil 34:11
And patience. All patience is derived from a glass of Champagne I’m pretty sure.
Unknown Speaker 34:15
That’s true. That decompression but also just slowing you down in the moment with your partner or whomever or just inside yourself. That is what wine does for sure. Do you ever worry about wine consumption as a woman? Because you know we’re hearing these guidelines all the time and they’ve reduced them again for women in terms of how much we should be consuming a week. Or do you think about that much?
Karen MacNeil 34:38
I do think about it. You know we are in a business where we have to be careful. When we do tastings, which we do in my office every week you know we always are spitting. For me, there’s no going out and just drinking with the guys for the sake of drinking. I have trained myself since the time of being a young woman to try and really concentrate a lot on wine so that I don’t have to take five sips to understand it. I can maybe get the wine well in three sips, especially in situations which I know you’re in as well all the time there are 25 wines in front of you. You can’t even spitting shouldn’t be tasting each wine five times to be able to write well about it. And the other thing I suppose I do is in all other ways I try and keep very healthy. You know, I exercise a lot, I eat well, I don’t smoke, so maybe I’m above the average in consumption for most women, but I’m doing good other things.
Natalie MacLean 35:50
Absolutely. No, everyone has to sort of reconcile with themselves, their lifestyle choices. But yes, I’m like you I tried to be extra healthy and all other respects. But I do think sometimes that you know one of the biggest killers is stress. And I think if we can have wine in moderation, that can go a long way. And perhaps do a lot more good than other things. But anyway, it’s an individual choice.
Thank you. So if you could have a bottle of wine with any person living or dead, who would that be? What bottle might you open? And what might you ask that person?
Karen MacNeil 36:29
Well, there are two people who I would be fascinated to talk to. One would be the former American President Barack Obama, the first black president, because his road to the top could not have been easy. I can’t even imagine what in internal core of determination it took for him as a black man to become the president, He has to be a fascinating person. And I also think in that same vein, in the sense that it would be fascinating to talk to Hillary Clinton. Here she was a woman at the apex and to have to suffer the failure of not quite making it to the presidency. That also how she dealt with that, what had to have been a crushing disappointment after spending her whole life, you know, in that race to the top and then have it not come to be. She would be very interesting to share a bottle of wine with and I would be happy to drink anything if I could talk to those two people.
Natalie MacLean 37:43
Even that Bulgarian red?
Karen MacNeil 37:45
Maybe. Might be time to bring up the Bulgarian red.
Natalie MacLean 37:48
Probably have a line. Yeah, those two would be fascinating and really cared. I mean they came you know from such humble circumstances and rose to the top. But I mean, there’s a strong parallel to your own rise. I mean, I just as I said at the beginning of the conversation, your story is movie material. I hope you will consider writing a memoir someday.
Karen MacNeil 38:09
Maybe. Let’s see.
Maybe, okay. Yeah. No commitments, not while you’re working on the fifth edition. Okay. So perhaps we’ll end with this before we wrap up and you can give us all your website details and the newsletter that you publish. But do you have three words that could describe you as a little girl?
Karen MacNeil 38:28
Probably, determined, creative, and I think if I said as a little girl probably afraid. I think even though I give a lot of presentations, I think I’m essentially a shy person and something of an introvert. And that often manifests as a bit fearful, but also because of the polio when I was little. Because I couldn’t trust my body in a way, I was afraid of many things. So luckily, I was also determined. One of the things to be determined about it is get over your fear and start doing stuff.
Natalie MacLean 39:11
That is incredible. And three words that might describe you today?
Oh, I’m really now different now
Extra, extra, extra those are the three words.
Karen MacNeil 39:21
Extra determined. I think I’m determined. I think I’m kind. And I think I’m endlessly curious. I’m just endlessly curious. It’s why The Wine Bible it has so many people say oh that’s so fascinating because I’m out there constantly trying, you know, uncovering things that I’m curious about and that are fascinating. So I’m happy about that. I love that part.
Natalie MacLean 39:49
Absolutely. And so do your readers and your students and everyone else who connects with you, Karen. This has been wonderful. So tell us, we’ve got The Wine Bible. Three people In the continental US are going to win personally signed copy from Karen. It’s just gorgeous. I expect that this is available wherever books are sold online bookstores and so on.
Karen MacNeil 40:09
Yes, it is available online and in all bookstores. And if you would like a signed copy and personalized, perhaps as a gift for the holidays or whatever, you can also buy The Wine Bible on KarenMacNeil.com. And you’ll see a little tab for The Wine Bible and it will allow you to write in there to whom you’d like me to personalize the book and sign it. So that’s also another easy.
Natalie MacLean 40:39
Absolutely. And would it be KarenMacNeil.com, or WineSpeed.com where we can get your free newsletter?
Karen MacNeil 40:47
Yes, our free newsletter is called Wine Speed. We have about 40,000 subscribers. It is really fun and fast. You can read it in less time than it takes to open a bottle of wine sometimes. And it has a wine quiz. Every week it comes to your inbox on Fridays. It is free. We might next year, we’re toying with the idea of charging for it but for now it is free. So this is the time to jump in there and get on the subscriber list. And you know the wine quiz, people adore the wine quiz. So many people write to me every week saying I got the wine quiz right this week. So I think your listeners and your viewers would really enjoy it.
Natalie MacLean 41:28
Like the Wordle for wine but more fun. And is there any other way that folks can connect with you? We’ve got KarenMacNeil.com, WineSpeed.com. Is there anything else you want to mention?
Karen MacNeil 41:40
Well of course we are on social media, Instagram and all of the other platforms. Just with the same handle. It’s @KarenMacNeilco C O like company. So at KarenMacNeilco.
Karen, this has been wonderful. I’ve just so enjoyed this. I do want volume two of this conversation with you. I wish you all the best. This will be wildly successful. The Wine Bible and all of your other endeavours, your classes, your courses, and so on. So thank you very much for spending this time with us.
Karen MacNeil 42:15
Natalie, thank you. I’m honoured really.
Natalie MacLean 42:18
Take care. Bye for now, Karen.
Karen MacNeil 42:19
Okay. Bye, everyone. And thanks, Natalie.
Natalie MacLean 42:24
Thank you. Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Karen. Here are my takeaways. Number one, I love the new and emerging wine regions Karen puts on our radar to try like sparkling wine from England. Two, she makes a great case for paying more for wine, especially when you do an apples to apples comparison between the cost of that overpriced latte and a glass of wine. She’s right that we can’t want to drink super inexpensive wine and want that wine to be organic, biodynamic, and as natural as it can be at the same time. It just doesn’t compute financially. And three, I’m intrigued by her own line of glassware based on flavour rather than the grape. In the shownotes, you’ll find my email contact, the full transcript of my conversation with Karen, links to her website and books, and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. You’ll also find a link to my free Ultimate Guide to Wine and Food Pairing. That’s all in the show notes at NatalieMaclean.com/210. Email me if you have a sip, tip, question, or want to win one of three copies of Karen’s beautiful Wine Bible or would like to become a beta reader of my new memoir at [email protected] If you missed episode 170 go back and take a listen. We chat about English sparkling wine, magical blends and harvest secrets with Janina Doyle. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Janina Doyle 44:05
If you’ve never tried English wine, the best to try would be sparkling. Our sparkling wine is actually the closest thing you’re gonna find to Champagne and not like it’s a mimic. When there has been blind tasting competitions, English wine has very often won. About 70% of wine is sparkling wine and the varieties grown in England are the three champagne varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Natalie MacLean 44:30
What is it that your wine region share with Champagne?
Janina Doyle 44:33
is the soils the Paris bass is free draining? It’s typically chalk, limestone and clay. It gives you that minerality and beautiful acidity. That same soil type is what we have in England, certainly in the southern part of England.
Natalie MacLean 44:50
You’re white cliffs of Dover. Is that chalk?
Janina Doyle 44:54
Okay. Dover is in Kent and actually the most wineries are certainly the top wineries.
Natalie MacLean 45:04
If you liked this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wine tips and stories we shared. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a British public
Natalie MacLean 45:27
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NatalieMaclean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers.