Red, White and Drunk All Over

Media Reviews

I'll post reviews of the book here as they're published.
Click on the publication's title to jump to the review below. Spanish Food Wine
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September 8, 2007

By Lisa Sierra

Guide Rating - 5/5 stars

What a great book! It is entertaining and written in a casual style, yet is very informative at the same time. Natalie MacLean writes about wine and winemaking around the world. She recounts her adventures while visiting wineries and interviewing winemakers and owners, as well as what it is like to work on the floor of a well-known wine retailer in NYC. Whether you are interested in wine, are intimidated by wine, or you are a "wine aficionado," there is something for you in this book.

Natalie MacLean is a sommelier and a wine writer who has won numerous prestigious awards for her writing, including four James Beard Journalism awards. In addition, her work has appeared in magazines such as Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and Wine Enthusiast. She also publishes a free newsletter, cleverly named Nat Decants and has a very informative web site , which is how we became aware of her work.

Before I started reading her book, I was a little apprehensive that the book would be out of my league. After all, she is an accredited sommelier and I'm simply a foodie and wine lover who lives near Napa. Would it relate to Spanish food at all, my main focus? Would it be too technical and dry? Would I be able to recommend it to friends, family or readers?

I should not have worried at all! The book is written in a very friendly, down-to-earth style. It is informative without being preachy or snobby. In fact, after reading the book, readers will feel like they know the author. Her writing is very easy to read and although she provides the reader with a large amount of information about grapes, wine-making and wine-tasting, this is not a technical manual about wine, but rather an informative and entertaining book.

What's the "Wine-Soaked Journey" all About?

The book has an introduction and nine sections. Each deals with a wine-related topic - from the growing and harvesting of grapes and the marketing of wine, to a description of the world of wine critics and how their ratings can dramatically affect the sales of a single brand or an entire wine-growing region. Another section is devoted to wine glasses and how their shape affects the taste.

Natalie MacLean begins by explaining how she became interested in wine, which reassures the reader that she is not so different from them. Then she starts the “wine-soaked journey,” by taking the reader to several famous wine-producing regions, including Burgundy, Champagne and Napa Valley. She entertains the reader with the descriptions of her travels, candid interviews with wine-makers and tours of ancient wine cellars. She is allowed to try her hand at pruning grape vines and spends a long, hard day harvesting grapes. At the same time as she is describing the travels, she gives the reader a glimpse of what goes on “behind-the-scenes” at centuries-old wineries and paints personal pictures of their owners. She offers the reader some wine history, as well as information on the science and techniques of winemaking.

In each subsequent section Natalie MacLean writes about another aspect of wine and how people relate to it. For example, one chapter is about two wine stores on opposite coasts of the U.S. and how they differ in their approaches to selling. Another chapter focuses on how she chooses wines for a holiday dinner. She also suggests how you can put together your own tasting with friends.

The Bottom Line - Should You Read it?

If you…

* Enjoy drinking wine
* Know a lot about wine
* Know very little about wine
* Ever wanted to know more about European wines
* Wondered how Napa Valley got its' start
* Enjoy cooking or eating great food
* Felt intimidated in a wine store or restaurant
* Wondered if the expensive glasses are worth buying

then read Red, White and Drunk All Over. There will be something to laugh at, a lot to learn and I think you'll find it an enjoyable read. is a New York Times company. Wine

December 4, 2006

By Stacy Slinkard

Guide Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Bottom Line

Red, White and Drunk All Over, is a "stand out from the crowd" book about wine. Not just wine, but wine in all of it's glory, wine in all of it's mystery, wine that is good and wine that is well...not. Natalie MacLean diligently leads readers through the harvesting process in a remote vineyard from which Bonny Doon sources grapes, and brilliantly takes the reader on a far-off field trip to the Champagne region of France and inside the cellars of the famed Pommery winery.

Like the riddle that the title implies, MacLean's book untwists the vineyard's answers to the "hows" and "whys" of making and drinking great wines.


* An entertaining read to expand your wine experience
* Great first-hand stories of some of the wine world's most intriguing personalities
* Written with a ready wit and contagious humor that will break a smile on every page
* A welcoming read for those new to the world of wine
* Also offers knowledge and depth to completely engage experienced wine enthusiasts


* Only con comes when you reach the end of the'll wish it was just a few chapters longer!

Guide Review

From discovering the intricacies of making a palatable Zinfandel despite it's many idiosyncrocies to unearthing the well-kept secrets of past and present Champagne makers alike, Red, White and Drunk All Over explodes onto the scene with a myriad of wine world nuggets and the insider's scoop that both the seasoned enthusiast and those just tip-toeing into the world of wine will find captivating.

This is not your typical wine book. Nope this one zealously offers the lowdown on the world of wine. From an interview with Robert Parker and time spent at Bonny Doon Vineyard with Randall Grahm - MacLean brings you face to face with some of the most prominent figures in the wine industry today. She introduces you to the personalities that create the wines of our times, the people who offer both the philosophies and the integrated sciences that make wine what it is and what it can be. Poetry, science, wit and wine wisdom all melded into one consolidated book, for your reading and educating pleasure!

MacLean takes a hands-on approach to both her research and her writing, producing an engaging tale of how, when, where and why grapes go from vine to glass (and just which glass to use with which wine). She goes to work harvesting grapes; checking out the ins and outs of Champagne houses in France; discerning the wine critics evaluations; peeking into wine pricing; selling wine for a day at a local merchant's shop; playing sommelier for a night at a five-star restaurant; discussing glassware with Riedel; hosting an at home wine tasting and the adventure goes on - the best part is MacLean takes you with her on the entire wine adventure, allowing the reader to experience the inner circle of the world of wine. is a New York Times company.

Adventures in Wine Tasting

October 6, 2008

By Erik Wait

The experience one derives from wine is not like any other beverage; it is an adventure of exploring the land and the people from which it comes. It is an expression of the Providential weather, climate and soil as well as the blood sweat and tears of those who pour out their lives into the craft of wine making.

There are many books on wine that provide historical facts about production, viticulture regions, step by step instructions on how to make wine and a lot of “how to” tips on enjoying it. But they tell you little about the soul of the writer and nothing of the adventure of traveling the wine country, meeting the people or what it is like to have first hand experience in the wine making process.

The difference between Natalie MacLean's book Red, White and Drunk All Over and so many others is that while many authors can provide a lot of professional wine making technical information for Natalie, “ real wine education has largely been through the people I've met and the places I've been.” Like most wine enthusiasts I have met, Natalie has a story to tell of her discovery of the grandness of wine that sounds almost like a religious conversion experience. It is a moment when the light comes on and the mystery of wine grabs hold of you “that evaporates with the cold touch of analysis.” You develop an insatiable appetite to learn more about wine and why it is the perfect catalyst for enjoying food and fellowship with friends. Natalie shares her personal story with her readers and as you travel with her you will find greater inspiration for exploring vineyards and the desire to expand and mature in your appreciation for the culture of wine. In her book Natalie shares her experiences as she takes you along with her on her wine travels to Old World and New World wine regions. She will also invite you into the inner sanctum of fine wine shops as well as into the battlefields of wine critics.

Sound intimidating?

Well, have no fear for along the way you will learn with Natalie all that you need to know about wine. You will gain a knowledge of various wine varietals, soils as well as the enigmatic and allusive concept of “terroir.” Along with Natalie you will experience the process of nurturing the nectar of the grapes from vine to wine while gaining an appreciation of the heritage of Old World wineries as well as come to love the visionary souls of those who are pushing the envelope in New World territories. Yet this is no dry textbook for it reads as a Meritage of adventure story, romance novel and an introductory class on enology and viticulture.

If you are looking for a fun, leisurely and yet insightful way to learn about wine then I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Red, White and Drunk All Over. Then pour yourself a glass, snuggle up to a cozy fire and read along with Natalie. Or, better yet, buy several copies and get together with your family and friends, open a bottle get ready for a fun time of adventuring the world of wine exploration.

After Hours for Legal Professionals

June 25, 2007

By Kathy Biehl

How often have you read wine writing full of impressive descriptions that left you with no earthly idea of how the wine would actually taste? You'll be anything but mystified by Natalie MacLean's essay collection Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass.

MacLean's approach is engagingly kinesthetic and confessional, conveying a range of physical, emotional and psychological sensations in addition to whatever her taste buds might be experiencing. This collection is a happy mix of history, sociology, memoir and cultural anthropology, painlessly interlaced with the science and business of winemaking.

Whether visiting the grand dames of Champagne, harvesting grapes in Sonoma, acting as sommelier or wine merchant, or detailing a foray into home entertaining, MacLean throws herself into each pursuit with a passion that invites the reader to dash along at her side. This book is both intelligent and fun, and you'll learn something along the way.

MacLean has expanded her online food and wine matching tool, which was featured in the February 2007 After Hours. The range of food search options is larger (I swear I didn't see "haggis" previously, which is paired with cabernet sauvignon), and it's now possible to pull up recipes, too. Reach the recipes either by searching by ingredient or chef name, or by searching by wine type and following the recipe link at the bottom of the pairing recommendation page.


March 2008

By Bill Crane

Have you ever agonised over which wine to serve with which food? If so, help is at hand. With thousands of wines on the market, picking the right one to complement your chosen dish can be difficult. Award winning Canadian wine writer Natalie MacLean has created a remarkable online tool for matching foods and wines at

Just as Nigella Lawson is the goddess in the kitchen, Natalie MacLean is the goddess in the cellar. Natalie is an accredited sommelier and has won four James Beard Journalism Awards for her writing about drinks, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award in memory of one of one of America's greatest food writers.

She has also won an unprecedented five International Association Culinary Professionals (IACP) Bert Greene Awards, four Association of Food Journalists Awards, and four North America Travel Journalists Association Awards. To add to this slew of prestigious awards at the 2003 World Food Media Awards in Adelaide, Natalie was named the World's Best Drink Writer beating off competition from 1,000 other writers. An international and independent panel of 47 food and wine experts selected her from a short-list of 14 nominees from the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Her articles have appeared in more than 60 publications from the Chicago Tribune and the Times to Wine Enthusiast and Bon Appetit.

When she is not writing about wine, Natalie's love is highland dancing which she taught for 10 years after coming fifth in the Scottish World Championships. Her new book ‘Red, White and Drunk All Over - A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass' is more than a memoir - it redefines wine appreciation for the reader. It was chosen as the Best Wine Literature Book in the English language at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

As you fly through the book you feel like your being taken through a well-thought out flight of full wineglasses. Natalie takes the reader on an insider tour of the international wine world with laugh-out-loud stories soaked in her sensuous obsession with wine. It starts in Burgundy, France with a personal tour of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (often referred to as DRC) where her host vintner Aubert de Villaine embraces organic viticulture. DRC enjoys a cult status even greater than Mouton in the Bordeaux region. She then visits Lalou Bize-Leroy, known as La Tigresse, but our Canadian wine writer obviously tamed her as lunch was offered and accepted. Bize-Leroy is a strong advocate of biodynamic viticulture which she adopted in 1988.

In California the brave author mingles with Randall Grahm the puckish president of Bonny Doon Vineyards who describes himself to Natalie as “a champion of ugly-duckling grapes whose existence is threatened by the dominant chardocentric paradigm”. Grahm kindly allowed Natalie to “get her hands dirty” with his visiting “cellar-rat” Matt Kenneally from Australia. Kenneally is offered something no-one else in the book was given. “Let's staaart with recking some woin, shell we?” he asks Natalie. We continue to pull the cork on more wine adventures as Natalie sells wine in a retail shop, is a sommelier for an evening in an upmarket restaurant, tours Champagne, opens her heart and cellar with a dinner party and even explains the feud between wine critic Robert Parker of Wine Advocate and Jancis Robinson of the Financial Times.

Natalie certainly travelled a wine-soaked journey of the grape but true to form befriends Georg Riedel and he explains which glass shape suits each style of wine and why.

American Wine Society

Fall 2006

By Jane Moulton

After reading two or three chapters just for the enjoyment of hearing about a favorite topic-wine-the reader suddenly realizes that besides being entertained, much education has occurred. (Would that schools were that easy.) Take for instance, the chapter called “Purple Prose with a Bite.” A disagreement between wine writers is discussed, but in the bargain one hears about differences in winemaking procedures, the 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines, the background of Robert Parker and his influence on sales, Jancis Robinson's background and her theories about writing on wine, and other educational topics that just become part of the prose.

In “Harvesting Dreams,” one learns the background of Edoardo Seghesio's opening of his winery in 1902 and the thoughts of granddaughter Camille Seghesio, currently the winery's export sales director. It also includes the story of zinfandel and its struggle to become a good red wine despite the white zin.

Red, White, and Drunk All Over is such delightful reading it would appeal even to those who consider themselves living far outside the wine scene. However, chances are excellent they will move into it after just a few chapters.

Anthony Dias Blue on WCBS

December 5, 2006

Best books for the wine lover's shelf

By Anthony Dias Blue

I've been inundated recently with wine-related books that would make nice gifts for wine lovers on your list. Sommelier and journalist Natalie MacLean has written a wonderful account of the places and personalities that rule the wine world in Red, White and Drunk All Over. She visits legends such as Lalou Bize-Leroy in Burgundy and California's Randall Grahm, of Bonny Doon, among others. The book is breezy and very readable. I'm Anthony Dias Blue. This is the Blue Lifestyle Minute on WCBS 880.

Atlanta Style & Design

December 2006

By Bob Calvert

Eno-author, Natalie MacLean, chronicles her life in wine in Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. It's a good read.

MacLean announces early on that there are two types of wine writers: Experts, who know everything and want to explain it, and Enthusiasts, who write to share their enthusiasm for the subject. MacLean has earned certification as a sommelier, which makes her an Expert, but she labels herself an Enthusiast. With justification.

Describing her maiden fine-wine experience she says, “I moistened my lips with the wine and drank it slowly, letting it coat my tongue and slide from one side of my mouth to the other. The brunello trickled down my throat and out along a thousand fault lines through my body, dissolving them.”

That was just the first sip.

The second glass produced this reaction: “The wine flushed warmth up into my cheeks, down through my shoulders, and across my thighs. My mind was as calm as a black ocean. The wine gently stirred the silt of memories on the bottom, helping me recall childhood moments of wordless abandon.”

MacLean tracks down good wine all over. She has chapters on Burgundy, Sonoma County, Champagne, wine criticism, stores, glasses, entertaining with wine, wine stewarding, and even on dining with a famous writer who loves wine. MacLean ties everything together with humor, much as a chef might use a little wine to “add flavor to the food, giving some softer grace notes to a hearty dish or richness to a light one.”


MacLean herself recommended that we try Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel. We did. It partnered perfectly with her description of a visit to the Seghesio family's Sonoma County establishment.

In another chapter, she writes about meeting Frederic Drouhin of Maison Joseph Drouhin. We though we'd try the Drouhin Chorey-les-Beaune with MacLean's commentary on wineries and winemakers in Burgundy. It turned out to be an excellent combination.

Bernie's BookMark

April 6, 2009

By Bernie MacKinnon

So what's the story about matching the right wine with certain foods? I always adhere to my own credo that if a particular dish doesn't jive with the wine you're drinking then ditch the food. I love wine. I love everything about wine. I love the taste, the smell, colour, even the unique shapes of the bottles. And I believe that the question should NOT be which wine goes with which dish, but which food interferes less with your wine. But if you must know the best resolve to this question than you should definitely consult Natalie MacLean.

There's no one in this great country of ours---and other lesser countries, for that matter---who's more an authority on everything pertaining to wine than Natalie MacLean. In a relatively short time, she's been elevated to the position of being the world's foremost wine writer. Natalie is a personable, intelligent, likable young woman, And a former Maritimer. I even heard from a most reliable source that Natalie was once a Highland dancer. How great is that?!

Her bestselling wine book RED, WHITE, and DRUNK ALL OVER is quite an enjoyable overview of the wine business. It's enjoyable mostly because, unlike most wine writers who take a devilish delight in explaining wines to the thick masses and dazzling them with expert knowledge, Natalie in her personable manner informs us of the process. There's a big difference between "explaining" and "informing". She has an easy, fluid style of writing that seems to take the reader by the hand and enables him or her to share all the delights of the wine process that she experiences. You feel like you are actually there in the complicated(to me) wine provinces of France or the hot valleys of California. Pretty cool! She writes with a great sense of humour which highlights her openness and charm. It's an excellent read. Even if you are not that into wine(I can't imagine why not), you will enjoy this book, I promise. Natalie knows wine like no other, that's for sure.

You can check out Natalie's excellent web site at Her free Newsletter contains a huge amount of amazing information on wine.

Well, I think I will now open that Pinot Grigio chilled to the exact degree suggested by Natalie, and cook...ahhh, nah, I'll just have the wine. Cheers.

Beyond the Bottle

March 2, 2009

By Thad Westhusing

Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is an enlightening, entertaining, and inspiring read, comprised of her personal stories meeting people and visiting places behind the vast world of wine.

MacLean's book is organized around ten chapters that take you along with her as she visits Burgundy and Champagne for the first time, experiences the crush of harvest in California, expounds on the trials and tribulations of wine writing, hosts a wine tasting event at home with friends, works in a couple of wine stores, goes undercover as a sommelier, explores the world of Riedel glassware, and concludes with the celebration of a meal with a good friend.

It is amazing the level of detail MacLean provides in the recounting of her experiences. I honestly felt as if I were standing next to her at times when she was describing the people she encountered and the places she visited. Even better, this book goes beyond the present, offering useful historical and cultural frames of reference that will help connect many of us to the wines we enjoy. As a result of reading this book, I came to understand the larger context surrounding wine's beginnings as well as its evolution through centuries of time to its current state.

Best of all, I found this book transformative. MacLean not only shares insights into her experiences with wine, but more importantly its lasting affect and impact on her life. I was only seven pages into the introduction when I was struck by an intellectual and emotional honesty not found amongst other wine writers.

MacLean imparts a fresh perspective on wine that many of us have been thirsty for, but until now were resigned to the fact that most wine writing was so dry it left us even thirstier than before. Through her lyrical prose, she helps explain why wine is elevated to such a level not found in other beverages or foods that grace our table at meal time. I found it fitting that she would close this book with the following statement, which puts everything that I enjoy and experience in wine into a proper context.

Having read Red, White, and Drunk All Over, I am so much better off, not just as wine enthusiast who happens to blog about this topic, but more importantly as a person who is striving to understand the larger context of my existence. I strongly recommend this book to every wine enthusiast, whether you are new to wine or have spent decades pursuing this wonderful beverage. It is a timeless book that I intend to read and refer to again and again in the years ahead.

Brentwood Press

January 17, 2007

By Harry Stoll

Natalie MacLean glugs a good wine and we want to ask her whether she and the glass would like to be alone. This woman flat-out enjoys fermented grape juice. When she shines the light of Apollo on the wine it bounces back with the joy of Dionysus.

MacLean knows her fermented grape juice and writes about it with a joie de vin as she takes us to France and is down cellar and at the kitchen table with members of families that have been in wine since forever. She pulls hoses across the wine dark floor of Bonny Doon Winery in Santa Cruz and finds some intelligent comments from owner Randall Grahm, talks about zin and Riedel glasses and wine lists and throwing a wine tasting and looks at the taste buds on our tongue and champions Champaign and talks about gurus Robert Parker and Janice Robinson

She's funny and delightful on every page, but takes no cheap shots, only long longing gulps of the grape. She's wonderfully respectful of those in the business but is no suck up, and her look at their views contain the right amount of acid, very little residual sugar and plenty of different tastes.

Calgary Herald

October 1, 2006

Acclaimed journalist takes wine writing in new directions

By Shelley Boettcher

She drinks some of the world's greatest wines; better yet, she gets paid for it. She has fans around the world and she can work at home, dressed in, well, whatever she wants.

But being a wine writer isn't all fun and games, says Natalie MacLean. First, there's the serious stuff, her career's tremendous capacity for self-inflicted pain. "Let's see: alcoholism, liver disease, hangovers," says MacLean (who, by the way, is both healthy and headache-free).

Then there are the funny moments, those potentially awkward comments from kids and conversations with adults. For instance, every year, at the start of a new school year, the Ottawa-based author has to explain to her son's teachers what she does for a living.

"That's so they don't call Child Services when he says, 'Mommy was drinking again last night,' " she says.

Her explanations, so far, seem to be working. The kid, now seven, is doing just fine, and, for that matter, so is MacLean. She's currently on the road promoting her first book, Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass (Doubleday Canada, 2006), a highly personal and witty behind-the-scenes look at the international wine industry, from the vineyards of Burgundy to North America's top restaurants and wine shops.

Born in Toronto, MacLean -- ("I'm 39 and holding hard!") -- grew up in a small town outside of Halifax, where "the drinks of choice were beer and whisky," not wine.

She was a professional highland dancer for many years, and regularly performed at competitions across Canada. (These days, she's been known to use her swords to slash the tops off champagne bottles.) The only child of a single mother, a schoolteacher, she says her mother taught her at a young age about the importance of "reading, writing and being financially responsible."

That meant, of course, that a writer's life was out of the question. Instead, MacLean pursued a master's degree in business administration from the University of Western Ontario, and then went to work as the Canadian marketing guru for a California computer company. It paid well enough that she could explore her true passion: wine.

In the introduction to her new book, MacLean recounts the first time she knew she wanted to know more about wine. She and her future husband, Andrew, had gone for dinner at a small Italian restaurant. The owner recommended a Brunello, a type of rich red wine from Italy.

"As I raised the glass to my lips, I stopped," she writes. "The aroma of the wine rushed out to meet me and all the smells I had ever known fell away. I didn't know how to describe it, but I did know how it made me feel....

"A pilot light had been ignited inside of me; over time, it would grow into the flames of a full-blown passion."

MacLean started to take wine classes, and eventually became an accredited sommelier.

Shortly after her son, Rian, was born, she decided to try her hand at wine writing. She picked up a food magazine at her local grocery store and, flipping through it, she realized that although she liked the magazine, it didn't have any wine articles. She sent the editor a proposal, asking if she'd be interested in an article on wine and the Internet.

"Have you been published?" the editor asked.

"Oh sure, I said," MacLean recalls with a laugh.

"I'm thinking 'In my high school newspaper; please don't ask me for samples.' "

Luckily for MacLean, she didn't, and MacLean's new career was launched.

Five years ago, she launched her own website, Nat Decants ( She began sending out free weekly e-mail newsletters, with stories and notes about her current favourite wines, new vintages that she likes enough to recommend.

"My reviews are very loopy. They're very personal, very loose," she explains. "But I am trying to provide a service to people -- 'Here's my shopping list. I've tasted all of these, and these are the ones I think you'll enjoy.' "

MacLean now has 53,000 subscribers in 36 countries. Many of those fans regularly write to let her know what they're drinking and what they're thinking.

"You get all these interesting stories from people: the night nurse in Saskatoon, the water reservoir manager in Tulsa, the florist in Dijon, a teacher in London, the customs inspector in Toronto," she says with a laugh.

"Wine just taps into so many people's lives. You don't have to be a wine geek. You can have another whole life, but you can still be deeply interested in wine."

Since launching the website, MacLean has won more than a dozen major international awards for her writing, including the prestigious MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award and myriad American Food Journalists awards. In addition to publishing in magazines like Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and Reader's Digest, she's the wine columnist for Chatelaine.

But MacLean is quick to say that she's just beginning her journey into the world of wine.

"There is just so much to learn. I'm inviting people to come along with me," she says.

"I just really want to know more about what I'm drinking and why I'm drinking it."

Canadian Living

December 2006

By Elizabeth Baird

An award-winning journalist who was, by her own confession, "born thirsty." MacLean offers a fun, enlightening romp through the wine world.

Cannon Beach Gazette

September 12, 2007

By Dean Reiman

I am often asked by friends and customers how I am able to keep up with all the new wineries and wines coming into the marketplace. Usually I joke that it takes a lot of work and sacrifice on my part, tasting hundreds of wines every month on behalf of my customers in order to spare them this misery. In reality, I do taste hundreds of wines every month looking for new wines for the store or to see what new vintages of regular selections taste like. Just for the record, 99% of the wines I taste wind up in the spittoon; it would hardly be prudent to fully enjoy every sample offered. Every once in a while you are asked to taste a wine of such magnificence that spitting it out would be a serious offense to Bacchus. Unfortunately, a fair percentage of the wines that are proffered by salespeople are just simply ok and rather unremarkable; they tend to all taste the same. Even though I have the opportunity to sample so many wines there are clearly many more wines that I do not get to taste. What's a wine guy supposed to do? Well, like you are doing right now, I search out various sources who I have found to be knowledgeable and reliable in their tasting notes and recommendations. Here are a few of the voices in the world of wine that I pay attention to:

While many wine professionals like to bash Robert Parker the fact is that this one man has done more to introduce standards of quality to an industry that was previously marked by inconsistency and lacking any sort of “road map” to understanding specific wine regions around the world. I had the distinction of observing Mr. Parker and his crew tasting dozens of wines at a table next to me at the large wine trade show VinItaly held in Verona every year and can assure you that they are focused, professional and ruthless in their reviews of the wines they were trying. Their bottom line was, and is, to make certain that consumers can rely completely on their recommendations.

Another email newsletter that I find to be informative is Nat Decants, written by wine authority Natalie MacLean. You can visit her website at to subscribe to her newsletter, read her reviews of wine and food and learn about her impeccable credentials in the field of wine. Her entertaining book Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass (it has been described as A Year in Provence meets Kitchen Confidential and then goes Sideways) provides a look deep into the international wine community.

For all their glamour and glitzy photos and despite the whispered rumors that their high ratings are available for a price, The Wine Spectator and The Wine Enthusiast are always good sources to find out about wines that I personally do not get to try. A very independent source of wine reviews is the Connoisseur's Guide to California Wine. This publication is often scathingly honest in their reviews and accepts no advertising that might inspire bias or, at the very least, the illusion of bias. Contrary to its name, the Guide also includes wines that are not from California. You can find this great publication on line at

There are countless other sources on wine too numerous to mention in this column; these are just a few of the regular stops I make when I want to learn about wines that are not directly offered to me to sample.


January 15, 2008

By Gabriella Opaz

As promised for the New Year, we are committed to broadening our discussion on wine beyond Spain and Portugal. One way we're attempting to do this is by both contributing to Dr. Debs Wine Book Club and by doing a little research on our own as we find books of interest to us. And fortunately, our new plan couldn't have come a moment too soon considering that my father-in-law was kind enough to surprise me over the holidays with Natalie MacLean's book, “Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.”

Cracking open the book in Norway next to a roaring hot fire, which are much needed on those cold blustery days; I was reminded how much I enjoy holding a physical book in my hand. It's funny how often you forget that these objects exist when information is so readily available at click of a mouse.

The book is broken down into eleven chapters, two of which are solely dedicated Natalie's observations as to how she both entered the wine world and what she intends on doing now that the book is finished. Both sections are a fun read, but don't compare to the meat of her story which describe her roaming adventures through wineries, vineyards, cellars, restaurants, retails shops, wine tastings and interviews.

But before I comment on my impressions, allow me to give you a general overview of what you'll encounter when reading this book. Natalie begins her journey in Burgundy, where she uncovers some of her deep resounding questions about Pinot Noir and its relationship to some of the most coveted wines in the world through her conversations with Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and Domaine Leroy.

She then heads west to Sonoma Valley where she learns the back-breaking work of harvesting grapes (something I'm still dying to experience) with Seghesio Family Vineyards and later with the radical winemaker, Randall Graham (a man whom I adore). In Champagne, she visits some of the most prestigious cellars in the world, conversing with legends such as the grand dame Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin of Veuve Clicquot and Madame Pommeroy of Les Clayeres. This is such a great chapter as she describes what its like to manually disgorge a bottle of champagne, while promptly humiliating herself in the process.

She uses the hotly debated and contentious critique of the 2003 Pavie between Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson to evaluate the effectiveness and future of power dominating wine critics. Comparing two retail shops in the heart of San Francisco, Natalie ties on her sales apron to uncover some of the truths and misconceptions in the retail wine trade - an intriguing chapter when considering the current issues with

She conducts an interview with the novelist, Jay McInerney (someone I was oblivious to before this book), followed by a discussion on tasting wine, while hosting an informal wine tasting in her own home. And finally, she suits up as a sommelier in Quebec at the award winning restaurant, Le Baccara, where she offers her take on the current state of wine service, wine menus and knowledge held by your average customer.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, simply because you're taking the journey with her, rather than feeling like a student in a wine seminar. You're walking in the fields getting your own boots wet and heavy with mud. You feel her frustration when she's incapable of reading cultural cues and her elation when meeting some of her most revered wine professionals in the world. And along the way, you will never stray far from her detailed and sultry descriptions of her undying passion for wine of any color, style or variety:

“I moistened my lips with the wine and drank it slowly, letting it coat my tongue and slide from one side of my mouth to the other. The brunello trickled down my throat and out along a thousand fault lines through my body, dissolving them.”

Sound like a Daniel Steel novel? In many ways, it is, but you'd have to throw in a touch of Jancis Robinson, a dash of Stephen Colbert and a sprinkling of MFK Fischer. Her style is witty, challenging, intelligent, and at times, completely bizarre - using such descriptive and involved metaphors, I found it difficult to stay on track. But by half way through the book, I succumbed to her style, figuring that to meet this woman in person must be thoroughly entertaining.

Living in an Iberian wine bubble, the book also brought to light issues outside of my everyday realm that excited me. Topics such as: Will Champagne eventually lose its stronghold among less expensive, quality sparkling wines of Spain, Australia, California or Germany? Should wine shops be organized by region, flavor profile, cuisine, etc.? Does it really matter, and how could we apply these same “radical” ideas of wine store management to wine stores here in Spain or Portugal?

As we push for less prestige and haughtiness from US retailers, begging for the simple “hello” principle, should consumers carry those same expectations to wine retailers in Spain? What should customers be wary about when ordering wine from a restaurant? How can they be better prepared? And do these standards change from one country to the next? How do you help a newbie face a wine menu larger than a phone book as they pass out from performance anxiety? Do men and woman approach both wine menus and wine shopping differently? Must a tasting note have some correlation to everyone's reality, or can it be something that is suited solely for your tastes? For example, can we say that a Chilean malbec is a “Hooters dancer in a bikini top - ripe, lush and ready to be consumed” or have we strayed way off the mark as to what you can relate to?

These questions challenge me to go out and get more personal with wine retailers and restaurants in Spain and Portugal. It makes me wonder if I am describing wine effectively, or if I need to make adjustments to style. It also forces me to consider if we've done a decent job preparing you to enter an Iberian wine shop or restaurant well armed.

In short, I liked it and felt it was entertaining and extremely thought provoking. Now maybe in part this relates to my world being slightly sheltered here on the peninsula, but I have faith you'll grab some truth from the pages. If you've read it, please let me know what you think. If not, you can pick it up through Catavino, informing us of your impressions when you've finished the book.


Spring-Summer 2007

By Bill Zacharkiw

The best learning often happens when you don't realize that you are being taught. To accomplish this requires a special type of teacher, someone who can integrate sometimes-complicated concepts into familiar anecdotes from our daily lives.

Ottawa wine writer Natalie MacLean is one of those rare people. Her first book, Red, White and Drunk All Over, is a meandering journey through the world of wine; from Burgundy to Champagne to California, to a tasting in Riedel glasses, to working with her as a sommelier for an evening.

She does all this in a friendly and sometimes self-deprecating style that puts us completely at ease, all the while teaching and answering many questions that even a seasoned wine connoisseur wanted to know but was afraid to ask.

MacLean's chapter on the "grandes dames" of Champagne is a humorous tour of the regions' best-known houses, where she wanders from cellar to cellar introducing us to many of the colourful personalities behind the scenes of the historic district. But by the end of the chapter, we are smarter; we know the history of the region, how champagne is made, the importance of the riddler and even who invented the Kir Royale.

Chapter after chapter, she manages to combine entertainment and education in a way that should be a model for all wine educators. After all, wine is merely a conduit for "camaraderie and consolation," a drink which brings us together and need not be taken too seriously. Perhaps this is MacLean's most important lesson.

Chicago Reader

November 12, 2006

By Kate Schmidt

Natalie MacLean has been called the “George Plimpton of wine writers,” and in this wide-ranging collection there's plenty of participatory journalism-she moonlights as a sommelier, works a vineyard, goes on a bender with Jay McInerney. But it's not all stunts: a four-time winner of a James Beard award for journalism, she manages to cram a ton of practical information into a lively, often droll narrative. Along the way she tours the winery Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, home of what many consider the world's greatest wine; visits Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, the wild man of California wine; and addresses the flap between new world and old sparked by the immense influence of numerical ratings employed by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and others.

You learn about terroir, appellations, biodynamics, and negociants, but it's all done with a light hand-MacLean approvingly quotes Ralph Steadman's satirical description of an Algerian wine (“Very soft and very round, like a sheep's eyes with square pupils”). When the gloves come off and her obsessive-compulsive side reveals itself the results can be amusing: a supposedly casual wine tasting with a bunch of girlfriends involves a tutorial on expectoration and the rigorous examination of each glass against slips of white paper. But then it's hard to argue with her methods. This is a woman who, inspired by a Napoleonic legend, taught herself to slice open a bottle of champagne with a saber.

Circle of Wine Writers

June 2007

By Jim Budd

As it is almost impossible to write a synopsis of Natalie's book, I shall just give up. This is a brilliantly different approach to a beginners' guide to wine.

Natalie uses subjects like a visit to the Domaine Romanee-Conti (The good earth) or dinner with Jay McInerney (Big City Bacchus) in New York as pegs to explore Burgundy with the former and cellaring in the latter.

Other chapters such as The Merry Widows of Mousse covers Champagne or Purple Prose With A Bite covers the argument Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker over Pavie 2003 but much more as well - critics, their influence, scores and much more. This is a rare instance where a wine book is a good read.


October-November 2006

By Malcolm Jolley

Natalie MacLean may have the most popular wine website and newsletter in Canada. Hers is certainly one of the more polished; her specialty is bringing the high falutin' world of wine down to a just-folks level all of us, and our mothers, can easily understand.

The wine world probably needs a lot more of this-even if it's not what I generally like to read. On wine, give me Michael Broadbent, Matt Kramer, Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson, Hugh Johnson, Richard Olney and Jay McInerney. Give me some gravitas, connect me to something bigger, refined, sophisticated, knowing and majestic. And that's exactly what Ms. MacLean has done.

She begins in Burgundy, heads to California, plays at being a sommelier in the casino in Hull, wades into the Robinson-Parker feud over Château Pavie (he loved it, she thought it was crap, words were exchanged-or written), she checks out Riedel, drinks with the bacchanalian McInerney. It's a fine romp through the world of wine, beautifully and warmly written, with a scope and breadth that sucked me in after three pages.

The former marketing executive from Ottawa pulled it off. I'm a fan for life.

Good wine books are about more than wine. That part about the grape juice being only 10 per cent of the story? True, it's a very important 10 per cent, but the other 90 per cent carries wine writing. And that other 90 percent is what MacLean does so well, whether it's the history of Northern Italian immigration to California or describing a horrible night at a restaurant in France with a corked bottle and an uncooperative waiter.

MacLean does something else in Red, White and Drunk All Over, something I wish more wine writers (mea maxima culpa) would do: tasting notes aside, she describes the effects of a few glasses of wine. If you drink enough… well, you know, cheers.

Classic Wines

July 3, 2008

By Kasey Carpenter

Call it a memoir, an autobiography of sorts. Natalie MacLean has been around when it comes to the world of wine and writing, winning four James Beard Journalism Awards and contributing to any and all manner of food and wine publications.

But this isn't some self-indulgent "look at my charmed life" read, "Red, White, and Drunk All Over" has a lot of honesty woven in the narrative, much of which I don't think was meant to be, but it is so great to see. I was surprised at her almost prima-donna-like reaction to having to carry some pails in a storied vineyard to help the winemaker, a privilege most would jump at. But even more glad at the honest self appraisal and inclusion of the incident in her own work. Or how she handles criticisms not necessarily aimed at her, but at wine writers in general, to her face. All great reactions to read, given the context of the book, the industry, and who is leveling the sights.

The book itself is broken up into chapters that deal with lessons learned from all corners of the wine world, from THE winemaker for DRC, to the goofy greatness that is Randall Grahm -- they all offer Natalie, and by extension, us, some pretty profound thoughts on the production and enjoyment of wine.

The first few pages are, in my opinion, the biggest hurdle. Borderline chic-lit verbosity and overuse of the trusty thesaurus (something all of us do at times when describing wine) sent up red flags, and had me calculating how many pages of this I was going to have to wade through, but fortunately it was just the one passage. Hindsight makes me think it was intentional, as we all tend to "build up" our first wine moments, and attach words to them that we didn't even know existed at the time.

This book skims the surface as far as a technical read is concerned, and for those seeking hard core tasting notes and data, look elsewhere, that is not the intention of this book thankfully. Educational yes, but entertaining first. It is simply a great collection of encounters with people in the wine world that most of us would love to have access to, and Natalie shares that with us, in a clever and engaging manner.

One of my favorite passages (tied for first with any quotes from Randall Grahm) is the chapter "Purple Prose With A Bite" where she offers her own take on the whole Parker vs. Robinson throw down of a few years ago, all centered, or at least sparked by, a single bottle of 2003 Chateau Pavie. MacLean does a wonderful balancing act between the two dissenting views that serve to magnify the polarity within the wine business itself, and ultimately to bring us all back to earth, safe or otherwise, in the knowledge that wine is an art form and is so subject to interpretation, tastes, whims, moods, context, etc...

The most thoughtful line in this book deals with the influence of Parker: "Some vintners feel it's not so much Parker himself they're trying to woo, as the consumer tastes he represents. In their eyes, his reviews just reflect the ratcheting up of our entire sensory environment, from spicier sauces on food to bigger special effects in the movies." Amen.

Despite the allure to do so, she never sides with one or the other, but allows both their voice, reason for being. I for one, was pleased and impressed with this passage of the book, and made for some thought provoking discussion amongst the tasting group.

While this may never be required reading for the MW programme, it is still required reading for any and all who enjoy wine, and more importantly, the people behind it.

Well done.

Cleveland Plain Dealer

September 28, 2006

Wine writer shares love of buzz

By Fred Tasker

The Cleveland Plain Dealer published the same review as the Miami Herald.

Colorado Springs Gazette

December 20, 2006

By Rich Mauro

The other book is Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, by Natalie MacLean. In a rather stark contrast to the Oxford Companion to Wine, which is monumental and encyclopedic, this book caters to readers who prefer to learn through storytelling. And MacLean is a good storyteller. She effectively combines a narrative of her personal journey through the world of wine with useful and often entertaining insights about how that world works, as well as how we can better enjoy our wine-drinking experiences.

Admittedly - possibly as a result of my political-science background - I found myself occasionally skimming past the scene-setting and flowery descriptions to get to the information, explanation and analysis.

I found, though, when I exercised the patience to read every word, I was rewarded with an evocative sense of the transformative nature of wine, something that is hard to get from cold facts and figures.

The only question now is which niece gets which book.

Colorado Wine News

January to March 2007

By Harold Baer

MacLean, an accredited sommelier, takes the reader from vineyard to winery to retailer to table with insight and joy and energy. She covers both the people and the product and there is a lesson on every page but the book is such a romp that the reader will learn without even knowing it. Would that all wine courses were as delectable as this.

What makes the book work on all levels is that is is written as a memoir and the reader gets to learn along with the author. Her lessons become ours and by the time you reach the last page, not only will you be better informed but you will feel more comfortable whether discussing wine or buying it. On every page you will get to share the joy, pleasure, education, and stories from vineyards, wineries, and bottles that MacLean finds in all aspects of wine.

If you buy one wine book this year, make it this one. In fact, buy several and give them to your wine loving friends and even to those who may only drink an occasional glass. They will be certain to thank you. But make sure to keep one for yourself.

Continental Airlines

October 2006

In this blend of Kitchen Confidential and Sideways, the James Beard Award-winning journalist rolls up her sleeves and takes readers on an informative and amusing tour from grape to glass and beyond, introducing us to winemakers, sommeliers, retailers, and drinkers as she seeks an understanding of what makes this beverage so popular.

Cottage Living

January 2007

By Jason Horn

Sommelier and writer Natalie MacLean presents the wine world as a cast of wacky and wonderful characters; you'll meet a dog-obsessed Burgundy vintner nicknamed la tigresse, and an opinionated pair of wine writers who battle over a new, nontraditional Bordeaux. This memoir that doubles as enology textbook, teaching the basics and telling personal stories with equal good humor.

Cuvée Corner

December 22, 2008

By Bill Eyer

Well the big day is almost here and maybe you have not filled the stockings hanging over the fireplace as of yet or you think why did I get them that?? Well for all my wine loving friends, I have an idea which is not terribly creative but it is definitely a great read for the wine lover on your list: Red, White and Drunk all Over!

This a great book I just finished this the other day, hard to put down! An easy read at just a little over 300 pages. The journey Natalie takes through Burgundy is compelling, and really you never want it to end. The people she meets from all corners of the wine world will inspire you and challenge your palate to want to leap outside the box of wine you may now know and love.. she takes on the critics in classic fashion.

She ponders the necessity of stemware for each type of wine and wraps up the conclusions nicely. Her trip to California and the conversations she has with the like's of Kermit Lynch and Ellisa Cooper of Discovery wine shop... is riveting. What I am trying to say is pick up a copy of this book and check out her website:

Thanks so much to everyone and have a great holiday season. All the best to everyone of my subscribers! I will see ya in the new year! I have a ton of reviews to write.. until then Cheers Everyone!

Daily Gleaner

September 12, 2009

By Leslie Cockburn

Fall is one of the best times to learn something new. It's back to school for the kids, so they're occupied with their studies, their sports, their music and their friends.

You're feeling energized after the summer break and you're ready to be back in the swing of things, too.

You might even be thinking, what will I do this fall to keep my brain engaged? You could learn something new. But what?

You could take a leap straight into something you know little about.

If wine interests you and you'd like to know more, maybe even eventually make some of your own, try Red, White and Drunk All Over, by Natalie MacLean. It offers a wine-soaked journey from grape to glass. Its path is more meandering, but you'll be intrigued by what Maclean has to say and seduced by the possibilities.

Dallas Eats

October 7, 2008

By Lisa Petty

When it comes to books on subject of wine, Natalie MacLean's Red, White, and Drunk All Over is in a class by itself. Successfully sidestepping the "textbook" trap, this collection of episodic chapters feels more like sitting down to catch up with an old friend - a smart, funny friend who happens to know a hell of a lot about wine. Both a sommelier and a gifted, award-winning writer, MacLean transports readers across the country and around the world as they tag along on her adventures in wine in this immersive, engaging read.

I was pleased to discover, and I'm sure you'll find, that this book lends itself to a style of study involving a sofa, a quilt and a glass of Pinot Noir, as opposed to a desk, a hard chair and a stack of various volumes of viticultural reference. It's an entertaining, often laugh-out-loud tutorial. Time and again, MacLean reeled me in with her tall tales and thoughtful profiles, and before I knew it, I'd learned something new. In Red, White, and Drunk All Over, MacLean effortlessly sheds light on precious gems previously hidden behind a dusty curtain labeled "oenophile" - ideas and facts I'd believed to be too mysterious, too obscure or too complicated to ever fully understand.

Take this passage for instance, one that I circled with my pen and marked with a post-it note. MacLean goes on to list several producers from this prized French region whose wines can be had for a (relative) song.

Another chapter offers empowering advice on ordering wine in restaurants, as MacLean recounts the amusing tale of her night as an "Undercover Sommelier". Her legwork, our reward. Mixed in with her musings are helpful hints on navigating restaurant wine service. It sounds so simple, and yet we've all found it difficult to act on our own behalf in such a situation. I'll have more gumption after reading this book.

As a die-hard fan of anything glam, I also loved the chapter entitled "Big City Bacchus", in which MacLean spends an evening with celebrated novelist and wine-lover Jay McInerney. And toward the end of the book, you'll find MacLean's must-read guide to pairing wine and cheese. I'll be referencing her specific, fool-proof recommendations in the approaching holiday soiree season.

Head to Natalie MacLean's website,, to order a copy of Red, White, and Drunk All Over. While you're there, sign up for her free newsletter and take a moment to explore her food and wine matching tool. In fact, I've been known to get lost in this popular site for an hour before I know what's hit me. See for yourself, and pick up a book or two while you're at it. I'm thinking stocking stuffers - how 'bout you?

Dayton Daily News

December 4, 2006

The best wine book of the year

By Mark Fisher

Natalie MacLean likes to drink wine. And she likes to write about it, too.

And believe me, her enthusiasm shows.

Of the hundreds of wine books that were published in the past year, it's a good bet that MacLean's book, Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, stands out.

First, MacLean succeeds in walking the incredibly fine line between pleasing both wine novices and aficionados. Her first-person accounts of working for a day as a sommelier and as a wine store clerk are filled with humor, insight and self-deprecation. Her descriptions of her visits with some of the most prestigious winemakers in the world (from Lalou Bize-Leroy to Randall Grahm) paint a three-dimensional portrait of some industry titans.

Plus, this woman - who has won four James Beard Journalism Awards - can just flat-out write. Don't take my word for it. Listen to MacLean's words:

But I have to confess, much as I'm drawn to its nuances, I wouldn't be writing about wine if it weren't for the buzz. I love the way a glass of wine makes me feel - invigorated and animated, released from my natural shyness. After a couple of glasses, I'm mellow, soothed, contemplative … . I'm sure other wine writers feel the same way, and yet when I read about wine, I often get the odd impression that it has no alcohol in it. Perhaps this unnecessary seriousness about wine is a hangover from Prohibition; or maybe it's because we think that the body can't be part of anything intellectual.

Or this, from a discussion about mass-produced wines that are made with a bit of sweetness for wide appeal:

Purists rail against branded wines such as Yellow Tail because they stand for everything wine shouldn't be about, in their opinion: predictability, homogeneity, security, profitability, and simplicity of taste. But Chateau Margaux and Tignanello are brands too; they just happen to be expensive ones. The dark side of wine brands is that they play to our insecurities about trying something new and therefore narrow the diversity of wine. With that consistency comes monotony. The thrill of wine is in its complex, mercurial nature. From this perspective, brands are anti-wines; confections of a chemistry set.

For more about MacLean and the book, click here. And check out tomorrow's Dayton Daily News, when I write about other fine holiday gift ideas for wine and food lovers.

Delicious Magazine

September 2007

By Susy Atkins

There aren't many wine books that can be described as "page turners," but I took Natalie MacLean's Red, White & Drunk All Over away on holiday earlier this summer and thoroughly enjoyed its wit and lively humour. There's plenty of useful information packed into the overview of the wine world, but Natalie - a Canadian writer who spent three years visiting wineries and interviewing winemakers - makes the subject fun and approachable by weaving the facts into entertaining, highly personal anecdotes.

Dream House

March 2008

By Deb Podurgiel

Red, White, and Drunk All Over is a refreshing, delightful read and true to its promise, is A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. It is nearly impossible to write about wine history, viticulture and even food and wine pairing without it all sounding the same at some point.

Yet, Natalie MacLean weaves a wine storybook so rich with imagery, you can smell the musty, wine-filled cellars, visualize the journey to each vineyard visited, taste that tomato sauce that needs Italian wine, and laugh as she tries her hand at riddling a Roederer Cristal Champagne, only to suggest "perhaps you could launch a label called Cloudy Cristal. It would be ideal for divorces, sentencing days, and other moments when life looks dim." In short, the reader is right there all the time - never a spectator.

Drinks International

June 2007

Natalie MacLean discusses wine critics Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, and refers to Elin McCoy's excellent book on the former.

It's a personal journey that also provides a lot of useful background. A holiday book for enthusiastic amateurs rather than committed oenophiles.

Drinks Magazine

Fall 2006

Have Pen, Will Travel (and Drink Wine)

Ever wanted to roll up your sleeves and pitch in with the grape harvest in California? How about work in a New York wine shop for a day? Play sommelier for an evening in a fine restaurant in Quebec?

If any of these experiences sound intriguing to you, then you'll probably enjoy wine writer Natalie MacLean's new book, Red, White, and Drunk All Over. In following her vinous passion, she does all these things, as well as hang out in the cellars of Burgundy and Champagne, host wine tastings and dinner parties for friends and dine with novelist-cum-wine writer Jay McInerney.

A recipient of scads of prestigious awards for her journalistic endeavors as well as an accredited sommelier, MacLean is obviously well-steeped in wine knowledge. Yet she manages to convey the enthusiasm of a recent convert to the delights of the grape. Whether you're a weekend wine warrior or the owner of a hundred-case cellar, you're likely to find yourself tickled as well as informed by MacLean's collection of oenophilic explorations.

Edmonton Journal

September 29, 2006

Passion for wine translated into dream career

By Shelley Boettcher

The Edmonton Journal published the same review as the Calgary Herald.

November 6, 2006

By Mary Baker

I really tried hard not to finish this book. An odd thing to say, I suppose, but I thought it would be more fun to post some blurbs from the first few chapters, encourage other members to get the book, and then read it together. But like a box of open chocolates, it sucked me in and before I knew it, I had finished the whole thing.

Natalie MacLean won me over completely in chapter one, The Good Earth, as she describes touring the caves and tunnels of Domaine LeFlaive in Puligny-Montrachet with Madame Anne-Claude LeFlaive. No nonsense about swirling aromas and eclectic flavors . . .

“As we pass each dark tunnel and room, I'm like a well-trained rat in a science maze experiment, looking for an upended barrel with a bottle on top of it. At last we get to it: four open bottles and several wineglasses.”

MacLean opens her book with tours of Domaine LeFlaive and lunch with the formidable Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy, “La Tigresse” (whose rambunctious dogs set off the cellar alarms while Madame's oven smokes up the house.)

Over luncheon, MacLean asks Bize-Leroy how long her Burgundy productions should be aged.

Her face darkens. “Who knows?” she snaps. “Certainly, the critics don't. How can they predict when to drink my wine, when even I can't? They're making it up. C'est terrible! And their descriptions-filled with every silly berry on the planet!”

We both shake our heads grimly over the stupidity of wine writers.

“. . . as the smoke continues to stream from the oven, she pours her 2001 Corton-Charlemagne, a gorgeous chardonnay with concentrated mineral depth and spicy pear notes . . . When my wine is gone, I sniff the empty glass pathetically.”

As MacLean walks us through these legendary vineyards and caves, she stops to explain the basics of wine production and viticulture in terms that readers at any level can happily imbibe. Her sense of humor is honest, refreshing, and self-effacing. It's like traveling through Europe with a sister who is a passionate wine geek. She pauses to explain each meaning and nuance, while challenging her know-it-all sibling with humorous portraits of legendary winemakers and quirky historical insights.

For instance, MacLean takes us along on her first tour of the caves and tunnels beneath Pommery in Reims, with guide Marianne Barbier . . .

“During the wars, the caves belonging to Pommery and other winemakers became refuges, housing sleeping quarters, hospitals, schools, churches, and even a theater. “Even during the bombing, they continued to pick the grapes because they had to earn a living,” Barbier tells me. “The men had gone off to war, so it was the women and children which crawled out between the vines-many of them died.” She points to a pile of bottles from the early 1940s. “The blood of France is in this wine.”

From Randall Grahm's eccentricities to death threats against wine critic Robert Parker, MacLean's storytelling radar focuses on the weird and humorous . . .

Undercover operations as a wine store clerk and restaurant sommelier were inspired by her own personal experiences. Once, while traveling alone in Europe, she decided to celebrate her birthday by ordering a special half-bottle of a favorite wine. The $150 half-bottle was corked, ruined, and when she worked up the courage to inquire about that, the sommelier's response was so brutal, it lead to a feminine meltdown that may have launched one of the most sympathetic wine list and wine service voices writing today.

Natalie MacLean's writing makes me want to pack a suitcase and order a flight ticket for anywhere she plans to go.

El Paso Times

October 10, 2007

By Ruth Taber

I enjoy wine with my dinner, but I don't like to spend a lot of money for my glass of pleasure. Natalie MacLean's book "Red, White, and Drunk All Over" demystifies the often intimidating world of wine aficionados and, most of all, reassures newer wine lovers that an inexpensive wine can be a winner.

MacLean, an accredited sommelier, has won numerous writing awards.

The book reads like a conversation with an enthusiastic friend who tells us about her visits to ancient vineyards in Burgundy and the cellars of Champagne.

Additionally, we read about her experiences working as an undercover sommelier in a five-star French restaurant in Quebec, plus selling wine in New York City and San Francisco wine shops.

When asked "What's your favorite wine?" she replied: "Any bottle that someone else is paying for. Seriously, my favorite wine at any given time changes depending on who I'm with, what we're eating and what mood I'm in."

In the chapter "A Tale of Two Wine Stores" she interviews Chuck Hayward, wine buyer for San Francisco's renowned Jug Shop on Polk Street, who's often asked to suggest the "right bottle for the right occasion."

I liked one of his comments: "For divorces, something strong with a bitter finish."

MacLean discusses wine and food pairings for Thanksgiving dinners; turkey meat is relatively dry so crisp white wines like riesling and pinot grigio would be good choices. Don't count out the reds if they're your preferred wines; pinot noir and beaujolais' berry flavors also go well with turkey.

This witty, entertaining book encourages the reader to trust his or her own judgment:

"Try a shabby-chic combo such as bubbly and potato chips or budget cabernet with filet mignon."

Above all, enjoy and have fun with wines.

Embassy Magazine

October 25, 2006

By Christina Leadlay

The fabulous Ottawa Wine and Food Show is next weekend, so why not get your palate in shape with a little reading? Recognized as the world's best wine writer in 2003, Ottawa-based sommelier Natalie MacLean has uncorked her first book, an amusing and informative blend of memoir and travel narrative with the history and science of wine. Ms. MacLean's hedonistic and intellectual love of wine is clear from the first page as she viscerally recounts the night she tasted her first good wine-a brunello-and her enthusiasm continues throughout, in her travels to the wine producing regions of France, her look at the influence of wine critics and their rating systems, and her thoughts on choosing the right glassware. Known in oenophile circles for her website and newsletter filled with wine suggestions, tips and advice, Ms. MacLean maintains her open, friendly style in this book, inviting readers to join her in the complex world of wine.

Europe Up Close

November 13, 2008

By Andy Hayes

Two of Europe's most popular wine regions - Champagne and Burgundy - have been painted in a new light with Natalie Maclean's entertaining travelogue, Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. She laments the state of most wine-orientated literature: “When I read about wine, I often get the odd impression that it has no alcohol in it.”

Natalie's first stop in her global tour of wine is in Burgundy's Côte d'Or, into the area of vineyards which reminds her of the phrase “la France Profonde“ - deep France - the real thing. Her destination is the uber-expensive Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, home to some of the most expensive (and most delicious) wine in the world. Exploring the practice of pruning the vines back to force nutrients into a limited amount of grapes, it becomes apparent to the reader how much goes into producing this expensive liquid. Indeed, the amount of information that the vineyards collect on every square inch of their plot is staggering.

Biodynamic viticulture - probably a topic unknown to the casual wine drinker - is explored at ease with Natalie's visit to Maison Leroy. As a négociant, a producer who buys grapes from other vineyards to mix with their own, the grape vines are left to survive the French seasons with no chemicals such as fertilizer, only a bit of unusual “homeopathic” treatments such as stinging-nettle tea and cow's dung.

“Most people have heard of champagne, the wine, but few know much about Champagne, the region, just ninety miles northeast of Paris” says Natalie. Witness to multiple wars throughout the centuries, the region is steeped in history, the result being a strong cultural identity. The production process of champagne borders on the absurd, and while explaining it in detail, Natalie manages to ruin a $500 bottle of Cristal and hilariously sprays a cellar worker with half a bottle of Bollinger.

If the book wasn't fun enough, Natalie's website Nat Decants certainly is. Her free monthly newsletter includes wine reviews, recipes, and other useful information. The best feature is the food and wine matcher, which offers up useful pairings for a near unlimited number of entrees, such as pairing quiche lorraine with Pinot Blanc. Merlot goes best with chicken stir fry, and for dessert, pour a Vin Santo or Riesling Spatlese with the apple fritters.

If you haven't considered touring the vineyards in France or elsewhere -or maybe you have and want to hear someone else's perspective - then pick up a copy of Red, White, and Drunk All Over today.

Feast Magazine

February 2007

By Laura Taxel

I just finished reading a wonderful book by wine wonk Natalie MacLean called Red, White, and Drunk All Over, and I loved every page. I learned a lot, too. The author has a few things going for her: She's an excellent writer, knows her subject well and has a sense of humor. The result is an entertaining and informative read that brings a welcome lightheartedness to a subject that's often fraught with dry, pompous discourse. By way of example: "The Zen-like symmetry of this small store [Discovery Wines in New York city] is soothing compared to the overcrowded shelves of others where I feel a rising hairball of panic. Imagine if Baskin-Robbins had 31,000 flavors instead of 31."

Her welcome message is that the best way to build your wine smarts is a commitment to a life of quaffing. My response? If that's what it takes to be considered a connoisseur, then sign me up. Chronicling her own development as an authority, MacLean offers up firsthand impressions of vineyards and winemakers, processes and experts, and the particular merits of specific brands and vintages. She includes tips for everything from throwing a wine tasting party and navigating a restaurant wine list to buying champagne and the ins and outs of decanting.

The chapter on glassware is great: She goes in as a skeptic, wisecracks her way through the learning curve and emerges a convert. One memorable phrase used to describe a line of less exorbitantly priced wine glasses reads "...a great value for those who still want to send their kids to college after buying stemware." MacLean's self-described "wine-soaked journey from grape to glass" tells a fascinating story of a career in sipping, spitting and sharing. Like drinking wine, spending time with her is all about the pursuit of pleasure.

Foodservice and Hospitality

February 2007

By Iris Benoria

Doyenne of drink Natalie MacLean's bestseller Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass was selected Best Wine Literature Book at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. MacLean crafts a journey though the international wine world, introducing its most charismatic personalities, visiting evocative places and exploring its rich history. The awards, known as the Oscars of the food and wine industry, receive more than 6,000 books from 69 countries each year.

For the Love of Wine

January 12, 2009

By Uzi Cohen

Red White and Drunk All Over, by Natalie MacLean.

Loved it. The woman loves wine and it shows. I mean, not just the whole lifestyle nonsense with the semi-euphoric fruit bowl descriptions you get from some wine writers. She is funny too. Check out her instructions on how to properly open up a bottle of Champagne. And her lovely recounting of her experiences in Burgundy, starting with a Domaine De La Romanee Conti private tasting; thru her experiences as a sommelier and finally to a ‘damn the torpedoes' dinner with Jay McInerney.

Reading this book is like listening to a good friend telling entertaining stories. Part way through the book I had a nagging suspicion that Ms. MacLean has been snooping around my house. How else could I explain that I have just about every book she mentions? I can almost understand the references to several of the wine books I own and Kermit Lynch etc. etc., but, when she mentioned the Long Tail by Chris Anderson, I knew something was up! Fess up Nat!

Forever Young

December 2006

By Terry Shehaan

Another gift suggestion for a wine person: a new book written by Natalie MacLean. Her book Red, White, and Drunk All Over has just come out and it's a pleasure to read. A very professional piece of writing, it shows the results of meticulous research: full of facts, historical and otherwise, but it's never heavy or boring. Indeed, it's a highly entertaining book, elegant in style and with frequent anecdotes that range from interesting to amusing. A great Christmas gift for the wine lover in your life.

G&M Top Books of the Year

November 25, 2006

Category: Biography/Memoir

By Geoff Heinricks

Natalie MacLean delivers clarity and taut, crisp prose, and offers amusing, unique and plausible metaphors. Her numerous interviews with noted wine folk unfold with space for the subject's thoughts and personality. And how can one not enjoy a book that recounts an early wine-sotted romance and marriage, and then immediately begins in Burgundy? Revel. Imbibe. Hector. Seduce. Should MacLean do more of it in her next book, it will soar as a Canadian wine book never has. As for this first one -- well, there is little that has been as cosmopolitan or as pleasantly complete.


January 20, 2007

By Laurie Hartzell

The wine industry owes Natalie MacLean big-time. If nothing else, this accredited sommelier and wine writer's first book will inspire readers to run to the closest wine store and pick up that 2000 Reserve Bordeaux they've been pining for. In this book, chosen “Best Wine Literature Book” at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, MacLean's passion for wine and learning is contagious, and her experiences will encourage even the most hesitant wine lovers to move on up in the world of wine and try new things.

MacLean's investigative exploration of the world of wine is reminiscent of the grungy journeys of author Eric Schlosser in Fast Food Nation-only in this case, readers won't be afraid of what's in their favorite beverages. Red, White, and Drunk All Over is a descriptive account of one woman's love for wine and the journey she takes to quench her desire for information.

From the birthplace of Romanée-Conti in France to California's Sonoma Valley, MacLean explores both the old world of tradition and the new world of technology. She also meets the faces behind the vineyards and discovers that they are as varied as the wines they produce. This tour-de-vino covers everything from vineyard history to wine culture to production techniques. The author's humorous anecdotes and tribulations will amuse connoisseurs-and, perhaps, remind them of their own process of “vinocation.” The author's deep connection to wine, the sensual language she uses to describe it, and her balance of convention with exploration make Red, White, and Drunk All Over an award-winning stand-out.

Georgia Strait

February 22, 2007

By Jurgen Gothe

A big tip of the cork to Canadian wine writer Natalie MacLean, whose terrific new book Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass got the big nod from the judges at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards just before Christmas, when it was selected as best wine literature book at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Since it appeared last year, the book has become a Canadian bestseller; even the stodgy old Globe and Mail picked it as one of the top books of 2006. MacLean journeys to some of the world's most interesting wine cellars and recounts her encounters with a lot of charismatic personalities.

MacLean is cool, keen, knowledgeable, and, above all, passionate about the subject. The anecdotes have more substance than many. The observations are insightful, and throughout it all she maintains her own voice and strongly held opinions. She also has way more fun with her subject than most wine-book authors, and that's the real treat in this collection. Her Web site is a fun cyber trip, too:

Red, White, and Drunk All Over is a great rainy-night read-by the fire, with a glass of something deep, dark, and slightly sinful at your elbow.

Globe & Mail

September 4, 2006

By John Allemang

Like many North American wine enthusiasts, Natalie MacLean had to start from scratch. Her Nova Scotia family gave priority to beer and whisky (to the point of alcoholism in her father's case), and when she had an opportunity to sample wine at a cousin's wedding, it was a homemade concoction called Tanya and Ronny's True Love Forever Chablis.

It's hard to be a snob when Tanya and Ronny were your first teachers, and MacLean happily admits she'd never been to Burgundy or Champagne before she started the book that details her sometimes unsteady progress from neophyte to Web-based expert. Red, White, and Drunk All Over is the kind of wide-eyed, all-over-the-place tour of the wine world you'd expect from a self-taught drinker who's making up for lost time-no end of enthusiasm for wine and wine people, a shot of shamelessness to counterbalance oenophilia's prevailing pomposity, and an overpowering desire to pass on all the wisdom she's picked up along the way.

MacLean is capable of making her highly technical subject accessible and even funny-especially when she talks about her own stumbling steps toward geekdom, like the hard-earned knowledge that comes from learning how to spit at a wine-tasting without slobbering over your neighbour's shirt. More to the point, it comes from her own experience as a pretension-averse Maritimer.

Go Girlfriend

May 6, 2008

By Julia Rosien

If your mom is anything like mine, Mother's Day the one day each year Mom relives all those hours of labor for the sole purpose of making us feel guilty. And we learned long ago that pancakes are a sad, sad way to say thanks for that kind of pain.

Dinner out is a given, expected and shamelessly hinted at for the rest of the year. A cruise wouldn't be out of line either.

What to serve for cocktails isn't always so simple. Let's just say Mom has an eclectic palate. Natalie MacLean, author of Red, White and Drunk All Over is our new BFF, not to mention our hero and all-around-goddess-in-shinning-armor.

Whether it's pizza, popcorn or take-out chicken, Natalie can match Mom's food preferences with the perfect wine. Zinfandel with your Tex-Mex? A cinch, says MacLean.

"The old rules about white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat just don't give enough guidance anymore," says MacLean. "With modern fusion cuisine and wines from new regions around the world, the choices-and confusion-are great."

Here are Natalie's top 10 fun food and wine matches:

Chilean Chardonnay with popcorn
California Zinfandel with nachos
French Champagne with potato chips
Italian Chianti with pizza
German Riesling with fish and chips
Australian Shiraz with hamburgers
Canadian or Oregon Pinot Noir with smoked salmon
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with quiche
Tawny Port with canned brown beans
French or Washington Cabernet Sauvignon with TV dinner steak

If you're planning a menu (it better be spectacular) MacLean will match it with a wine from a list more than 80,000 deep. What's more, no one has to know you had help with Mom's special meal. It will be our secret.

Go Nomad

April 22, 2008

By Ginger Warder

Natalie MacLean's new book is a self-proclaimed “wine-soaked journey from grape to glass” and is as much fun to read as the title suggests. This is one wine expert with a good nose, but no snobby attitude. The book has gotten rave reviews from the L.A. Times, The Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Seattle Times to name a few, and if my opinion counts, now from here. It's available at most major retailers and online.

It's a fun way to learn about wine in a Bridget Jones' Diary sort of moment, and MacLean's website offers great resources like a food-and-wine matcher with thousands of recipes and wine pairings. She also has a free e-newsletter with tips on wines to buy, and what to store in the cellar.

Going for Seconds

December 4, 2008

By Frank

Yup, that's the title of this really fun wine book by Natalie MacLean. Red, White and Drunk All Over was one of the most fun informational food and wine books that I've read in the past two years. That's why I think it's another cool book for you. Or for someone as a gift. Even if you're not into wine, you'll be engrossed with Natalie, her narrative and how she grew and learned as a wino and an author. It's like reading a magazine.

First off, this is a great wine reference book. What's really cool is that within its information is a great story. Nat shares her experience as a wine writer, spending time in places like Napa Valley, Burgundy, and Champagne, but she molds her perspectives into a reference and an informational slant. Tough thing to do without feeling preachy, but Nat's style of prose prevents it from being stiff.

That's the biggest thing that I love about the book. Nat takes a big object like wine that can be pretty intimidating and makes it pretty relatable. Perfect for newcomers. Want to learn about food pairing. She's on it. Glassware research? Check. Burgundy? She's got you covered. Hosting a party? Holla. Along the way it's dotted with fun little anecdotes. Did you know that toast comes from ancient Rome when before meals, soldiers would dip charred bread into the wine? Thus toasting before a meal began.

It's a quick read too. You could breeze through it or treat it like a textbook and keep notes. Isn't that the great thing about really good books? That you'll take something with you that resonates long after you put the book down.

Revel and read Nat's book. Her website has all sorts of good info and she has a free newsletter; Nat Decants. The lady does have a way with words.

Red, White and Drunk All Over is one of those books that you'll find yourself bringing up in conversation. Read it for yourself or give it to a wine-loving friend or to someone who wants to take the next step to geekhood. Cheers to that.

Golf Today

May 2007

By Bob Weisgerber

This column has been all about the finer things in life-we've reported on great golf resorts and exceptional golf courses and we've pointed out those clubs and locations where the grape is grown and crushed, bottled, and shared with golfers in wine tastings and at 19th holes. We've got a long way to go, with many destinations yet untapped.

But just as we try to share information about improving your golf game, we think it's time to share information about improving your understanding and appreciation of the wine side of the equation. There is no better way to do that than telling you about a fun new book written by an expert, Natalie MacLean, Canada's attractive and clever answer to America's better known wine gurus. This is packed with insights.

MacLean talks about the story of the Seghesio family in Sonoma. She talks about immigrations (including her own family's forced move from Scotland to Canada) and how the winegrowers bought land, cultivated vines and built reputations. In particular, she mentions zinfandel as one of the early wines planted and harvested in California.

MacLean then describes how a UC Davis, Carole Merideth, used DNA techniques to associate the zin grape with one from Croatia, where it probably originated.

One thing I can assure you, once you get into this book, and the first part of it is centered on wine and growers in California, you'll be seduced by MacLean's enjoyable writing style. You'll find it hard to put the book down.

In a chapter entitled Purple Prose with a Bite, she goes into a most enlightening discussion of the economic effects of Robert Parker, who has built an empire based on his wine scoring system. The scores that are assigned (which ostensibly are on a 100 point scale, but in more practical terms amount to a 20 point scale from 80 to 100) are wielded like weapons to induce buyer selectivity.

Of course, it can spell havoc for a winemaker to have his 95 score (for one year) appear in the Wine Spectator the next year with a score (regrettably) under 90 points. Scores ultimately are a matter of taste by those whose jobs it is to taste. Vintages (years of production) are often affected by climate, extremes of weather, and the terroir (a wine term for the specific nature of the vineyard soils and environment). Still, the economic impact of Parker's scoring system is ever present, from restaurant pricing to selected wine tastings at wineries, to commercial stores stocking and selling wine.

Parker's scoring also has important ramification on the international level. France, in particular, got along just fine without a score based evaluation system, but now they have to contend with it.

So what should we take from all this? Well, several things.

First, wine is a matter of individual taste. It is less important what the score is (which represents the taste of someone else) than that you like it. And because wine comes in many different forms, (white, pink, red) and types (pinots, cabernets, zinfandels, syrahs, merlots, etc), you can have plenty of fun identifying your favorite type of wine even before you explore the unique nuances of that wine as produced by various winemakers. After you get that narrowed down, then you'll be in a position to evaluate one year's crop compared to the previous year.

Second, wine is good for your health when drunk in moderation. There is a growing body of scientific research that indicates the polyphenols found in red wines may offer significant antioxidant protection. This translates to chemicals found in red wines, have the potential to overcome free radicals that are bound and determined to cause cellular damage, which is a root cause of various forms of cancer and heart disease.

Third, wine has caught up with beer in consumption at the national level. The pairing of great golf and fine wine has been the subject of numerous columns published previously in Golf Today Magazine.

And here's the kicker. You will frequently find that the best golf courses are located in or near some of the best wine growing regions in the far west of the United States and Canada. (This is not so true in Europe, unfortunately.)

Natalie MacLean is one of those rare experts who likes to communicate with her many admirers. Currently, she is featuring a free food matching tool at and she is soliciting input from those of you who already know golf and know food and wine pairings.

She would like you to send her suggestions for “golf clubhouse food and wine pairings.” So here's your chance at 15 minutes of fame.

Grand Magazine

September-October 2006

Raise a Glass to MacLean's Book on Wine

By Tony Lewis

Move over, Robert Parker. Make way, Jancis Robinson. A fresh, new wine story-teller has just exploded over your terrain like Kramer coming through the front door.

There's eye candy and then there's the liquid version of brain food. Natalie MacLean's first book, Red, White and Drunk All Over, is a pure delight for the mind and senses. She confidently views her wine landscape "as cerebral as it is sensual. In fact, drinking wine is a full-brain exercise."

We fast learn that MacLean is an engaging big-canvas storyteller, with a unique gift of weaving a tapestry of often stuffy wine speak into an interesting storyline. I didn't start to realize the importance of this point until midway through the first chapter, as she had us both driving down spindly back roads deep inside Burgundy.

Thanks to her insights and interesting clients, you just want to change your glass (again) and buckle up for a long, educating ride. In the next eight chapters, we actually zig-zag the wine globe from familiar vineyards to obscure wine shops, from classic restaurants to, eventually, a home dinner party.

I am reluctant to single out favorite chapters. They're all enlightening and entertaining. But I found The Glass Act truly exceptional. MacLean starts out with preconceived notions that fancy glassware is more about marketing than about true function. Several sips later, though, with crystal glassmaker hunk George Riedel, she concedes, "a good glass makes good wine better, accentuating its character. But it can't actually make bad wine taste good."

That's profound enough, after a few refills. She then effortlessly shifts gears on us, hosting her own impromptu wine tasting with a few close gal-pals instead of further comparing stemware.

Tasting and enjoying wine with Nat, it seems, is really a no-brainer. You get the sense there's more mischievous sippin' then spittin' amongst friends. That's OK, too. Wine newbies and even experienced oenophiles are the clear winners.

In the last ten pages of the chapter, we learn all that's needed to be known about the enjoyment of wine. Looking back on the evening, she muses that wine is as much about camaraderie as taste. "When we share good wine with good friends, we also share what makes us human: sensual pleasure, conversation, and connection."

As a different voice on the wine scene, we're all the better for her timely arrival. Now listen up: Entertainment amongst friends and festivities fast approaches. Be a bright star this upcoming season, and wrap up her debut book as a nice gift for the hostess, or for your sweetie under the Christmas tree. Trust me, good times will follow.

Gwinnett Daily Post

May 20, 2007

By Brian Goodell

Not everyone likes to talk about wine. There are those who can just drink it and leave it at that.

Others of us fall in love with it, and pouring a glass simply to wash down dinner just isn't going to cut it. We observe it, smell it, analyze it and make it a part of our conversation.

Natalie MacLean shares the moment wine stole her heart in the introduction to her recent book, “Red, White, and Drunk All Over.” She was seated in a small Italian restaurant near her college apartment.

“As I raised the glass to my lips, I stopped. The aroma of the wine rushed out to meet me, and all the smells I had ever known fell away. I moistened my lips with the wine and drank it slowly, letting it coat my tongue and slide from one side of my mouth to the other.

“My second glass tasted like the sigh at the end of a long day: a gathering in, and a letting go. The wine gently stirred the silt of memories, helping me recall childhood moments of wordless abandon.”

With such a description of such a moment, it's no surprise that she eventually became a professional writer, and that wine has always been her subject. After much success with her online newsletter and Web site,, she can now add author to her many titles.

The book is fraught with description, as McLean coaxes out sensory responses from the very words on the page. You can't experience wine by reading about it, but this may be as close as you can get.

About Romanee-Conti La Tache, one of the world's greatest wines - “I close my eyes as the aroma envelops me, a silk drapery of scent brushing my cheeks and settling gently around my shoulders. My mind floats over a field of wild strawberries, then swoops through a forest carpeted with violets.”

On Cristal Champagne - “As I raise the glass to my lips, I breathe in both earth and sky. Gorgeous aromas of pastry-wrapped pears, baked apples, brioche, honey and spice burst like beads in my mouth.”

After the first three chapters, each of which follows her travels and wine tours of a particular area of the globe. I found many of the later chapters, which are more anecdotal and personal in nature, to be extremely entertaining and, at times, unabashedly funny.

McLean tackles the juicy spat between writers Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, shares some of her experiences as a one-day only retail wine salesperson and as a sommelier at an upscale restaurant.

If the book is guilty of anything, it's of trying to fit too much information into too small a space. If you love wine, you won't mind at all, and I'm sure you'll enjoy the humor, storytelling ability and genuine transparency that MacLean brings.

Halifax Daily News

September 21, 2006

By Peter Rockwell

When it comes to innovative wine pairings, I'm willing to bet wine diva Natalie MacLean would recommend her entertaining new book Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass to go with a bottle of just about anything.

Originally from Lower Sackville, MacLean has made a name for herself (and been awarded some major industry bling) by publishing Nat Decants - a free bi-weekly wine newsletter she e-mails to more than 50,000 readers around the world.

In this first foray between the hard covers, she's resisted the urge to create yet another "so let me tell you everything you need to know about wine" instruction manual and offers up a series of first-hand accounts of her experiences wandering the wine world.

Whether it's working the day shift at a hip New York wine shop, getting stemware tips from Georg Riedel, or giving her sommelier diploma its first service industry workout by waiting tables at a trendy restaurant, MacLean brings a level of wide-eyed enthusiasm and sustained intelligence to her writing that you'll find hard to come-by in the wine section of your local bookstore.

She's at her best when writing from the heart and my favorite anecdote is a self-deprecating story of a birthday celebration gone bad co-staring a corked bottle, an intimidating wine steward and her reluctance to fight for the right to party with a glass of drinkable vino.

Though I won't ruin the fun by telling you how that one turns out. Suffice to say, that like all of MacLean's adventures, you'll end up smiling and learning something about wine.

Hamilton Spectator

December 16, 2006

By Dan Kislenko

The author of Red, White And Drunk All Over has a fascinating background. A resident of Ottawa, Natalie MacLean was a Rhodes scholarship finalist and a champion Scottish highland dancer, in addition to being a trained sommelier, which is where the wine connection comes in. She's won many awards for her writing and publishes a free newsletter at

Red, White And Drunk All Over is a fascinating collection of stories from various parts of the globe, told in a style so personable and easygoing that you almost forget you're gaining great insights into different aspects of the wine world.

She delves into the role of women in wine -- much more to it than you'd think -- in chapters such as The Merry Widows Of Mousse. There's the dinner-party vignette. A tour at an elite Burgundy vineyard. A Glass Act explores everything in wine tasting from glassware to aging of wines to how to taste. My favourite chapter is Purple Prose With A Bite, the story of the bitter and often personal feud between two of the world's most eminent wine journalists, Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson. That's worth the price of the book on its own.

MacLean injects her experiences, which is what helps keep it very down to earth in a subject area that is all too often handled in an intimidating manner.

December 14, 2006

By Lenn Thompson

Endless books have been written about how wine gets from the vineyard to your glass, but few do so with as much aplomb and irreverence as Natalie MacLean's Red, White and Drunk All Over. This isn't your average, sometimes boring, wine book. It's a quick, fun read from a terrific author.

High Desert Wine Explorers

March 23, 2007

By Glen Frederiks

Like the movie Sideways, this is a book that speaks in wine geek, yet is still able to bridge the chasm to the general reading public, humanizing the mysterious subject of fine wine.

Although author Natalie MacLean hails from our neighbor to the north, Canada, her love and passion for wine has taken her around the globe.

She is an accredited sommelier, award-winning wine writer, and maintains a wine education website for the public.

Her unbridled delight in wine, its history, cultural significance, and hedonistic enjoyment, is presented with the wide-eyed naiveté of an ingénue attending her first formal ball.

Still, as we meet icons like Domaine de la Romanee-Conti's winemaker Aubert de Villaine, Pete Seghesio of Seghesio Vineyards, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards, and fellow wine writers Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, among many others, one cannot help but be seduced by MacLean's enthusiasm for the subject.

Be careful, if you are drinking a glass of wine while reading this tiptoe through the tulip-shaped stemware, as her self-deprecating humor is likely to cause you to launch a snootful of red or white into the wild blue yonder.

I particularly enjoyed her take on the differing styles of describing a wine as a writer in the field. From the flowery, seductive prose of Jancis Robinson and others in the Old World to the 100 point rating systems of Robert Parker and his New World colleagues, MacLean rightly finds the middle ground, understanding that both styles are able to communicate knowledge to the thirsty hoards that read them.

One thing I must say about MacLean - she is so entertaining in her missives about the wine world that you barely notice that she has packed a tremendous amount of knowledge into each chapter. She has managed to squeeze the essence of wine knowledge out of each subject in her book and communicate it in a way that other wine writers cannot do. This, I suspect, is directly related to her unabashed love affair with the fruit of the vine.

So, find yourself a cozy corner, pop the cork on your favorite bottle of vino, and curl up with this tome of tippling travels. You will be amply rewarded for taking this walk along the wine trails.

This is a book I most heartily recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about the world of wine, whether you are an occasional tippler, a budding enthusiast or a lifelong aficionado.

Hotel F&B Executive Magazine

November/December 2006

By Nancy Fox

Natalie MacLean joyfully takes us on an insider tour of the international wine world in her new book, Red White & Drunk All Over: A Wine Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. With James beard and IACP journalism awards under her belt, MacLean leads us though some noteworthy regions of the wine world and introduces us to influential people who inhabit that world - including a visit to France's Burgundy region and the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti where biodynamic viticulture is embraced; an interview with the brilliant and quirky Randall Grahm of California's Bonny Doon Vineyards; and a tour of the underground champagne cellars of Pommery. We learn of the famous wine-scoring feud between critics Robert Parker of Wine Advocate and Jancis Robinson of the Financial Times of London. And Austrian crystal stemware scion Georg Riedel demonstrates that, "Life is too short to drink good wine out of bad glasses."

More than a memoir, this book redefines wine appreciation in making the journey feel rich and experiential for the reader. Natalie takes us along on her gigs as a wine sales person at wine shops in San Francisco and New York in determining what customers look for in their selection of wines. We also accompany her for one anxiety-ridden evening as she works undercover as a sommelier at a five-star French restaurant, again in hosting a wine tasting for her girlfriends, and in playing with wine pairings for a Thanksgiving dinner at-home. This irreverent read reminds us to lighten up and enjoy the adventure of tasting and experimenting with different wines, and most of all - to trust your own tastebuds when selecting your personal favorites.

In Print for Fully Booked

September 2008

By Ariel M. Liwagan

My passion for wine started four years ago with a bottle of Chilean cabernet, a neighbor's Christmas gift. Unlike other pursuits, this one has managed to sustain my interest and even as I gain more knowledge, I have somehow avoided becoming jaded about it.

Perhaps it's because wine is intimately connected with food, and fulfills a most basic need. Or because wine is an obsession that presents a myriad of possibilities to explore - which will take more than a lifetime to master. Or maybe wine allows us to think and write in ways not possible when we are sober. It's not a surprise that the best thinkers and writers in history have an affinity for the grape. In Vino Veritas.

It's the same fascination I share that Natalie MacLean writes about in her book. Humorous in tone, adventurous in spirit and 100% authentic, MacLean ruminates on Burgundy and Champagne, two of the wine world's holiest sites. She narrates the prodigious efforts exerted by wine growers in these regions to coax the best out of their vines, such as deciding when to pick the grapes to assure maturity and ripeness. They have to decide on impossibly difficult questions like “When is the last possible date for harvesting before the rains come? Some efforts border on the zany, such as biodynamic farming, which is essentially organic farming taken to mystical extremes- for instance, it relies on the configuration of the heavenly bodies to dictate harvesting.

Like most non-European wine lovers, myself included, MacLean detests the appellation system that France uses, a classification started in the 18th century designed to guarantee wine origins and protect the wine industry from fraud. It sets strict standards on the grapes to be used, allowed alcohol content, maximum yields, etc. It also rates each vineyard's quality with designations like grand cru, premier cru all the way down to vin d Pays d ‘Oc. While this guarantees quality like the ISO system, it is also undemocratic, with no room for movement upwards or downwards. What happens when a premier cru deteriorates in quality over the years? Why doesn't it get demoted?

A fascinating chapter in the book covers a conversation with Georg Riedel, maker of crystal stemware. Riedel is known for designing specific glasses for each type of varietal, insisting that only his designs bring out the best in each type of wine. For instance, pinot noir glasses have large bowls to capture its aromas, while champagne flutes are long and narrow to preserve the bubbles. Rim shapes are made thinly, so as to allow the liquid to spread evenly across the palate. My take on this is that glass physics is only partly responsible for improving the experience; the awareness that you are drinking fine wine from an expensive crystal also plays a large part. It's like driving to a huge social event in an old beat up car versus driving in a Ferrari. It gets you there just the same; but the overall sensory experience is vastly improved with the latter.

There's also a chapter on the American bad boy - Robert Parker, a lawyer turned wine critic, who has almost single handedly influenced market directions for the wines he reviews. It's a tribute to Parker that even the French have recognized his contributions and acknowledged his authority on their wines by giving him their Legion of Honor.

With the exception of Jay McInerney, (referred to as Big City Bacchus in the last chapter) female wine writers have an advantage of having more facility with words, with sentences like (while tasting a Burgundy from Domaine de la Romanee Conti) “… my mind floats over a field of wild strawberries, then swoops through a forest carpeted with violets…it spirals down my DNA and awakens me from an aesthetic sleep…”

McInerney (in his own book) refers to a Riesling as tasting like a “Ginsu blade in a pineapple. ” Before you dismiss these as puffery, both these descriptions are truthful- Burgundy (pinot noir) has fruity and flowery scents while Riesling has a metallic, tart taste.

This is what keeps me passionate about wine- it's an endlessly fascinating subject that engages both mind and spirit. MacLean has written a love letter to wine and it's worth getting red, white and drunk all over.

Italian Cooking & Living Magazine

December 2006

By Catherine Torphy

On a cold winter's night, enjoy a glass of red wine paired with Natalie MacLean's wonderfully witty wine industry expose: Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass. MacLean, an award-winning journalist and accredited sommelier, went on a three-year, intercontinental odyssey, immersing herself in all things related to wine.

The book, which recounts her fascination, wine-filled travels, gives readers an insider's peek at the places and personalities behind this legendary industry. Whether she's interviewing Bonny Doon's Randall Grahm or working as an undercover sommelier for a night at a five-star French restaurant, MacLean takes a humorous and irreverent approach to the international wine industry, while providing useful tips on everything from purchasing to pairing.

Readers will appreciate MacLean's infectious curiosity and her demystification of a seemingly intimidating world. Like a well aged wine, her enthusiasm is irresistible.

Italian Food Experience

October 10, 2008

By Filippo Fortini

There are thousands of books about wine out there. Some are very informative, such as Clive Coates' The wines of Bordeaux or Nicholas Faith's The winemasters of Bordeaux, but not many are, how can I say? Fun to read as well as interesting and informative. Natalie MacLean's "Red, White & Drunk all over" falls exactly into that category. It's really fun to read, while at the same time it gives enough "insider stuff" that even the most accomplished wine enthusiast will learn a thing or two.

Drinking and enjoying wine should be a pleasure no matter what the person's knowledge or experience is. It should never be a daunting experience, one should never feel intimidated when buying or choosing a wine.

Ms. Maclean's book is about this simple albeit sometimes forgotten concept. Her book is not for those wine freaks who know everything about a winemaker's family, nor is it a technical book in the strict sense. Like I said, it will probably teach even the most accomplished wine experts a few things, but it's never ostentatious nor boring, rather quite the opposite. "Red, White and Drunk All Over" is simply an ode to the most incredible beverage ever invented and through a series of anecdotes Ms. Maclean brings the matter back to earth from the heavens where, it seems it usually resides by reading other accomplished writers.

Not only Natalie Maclean is witty and resourceful, but her self deprecating humor is a breath of fresh air and her book will be dear to all those who want to enjoy a good bottle without being too serious and pedantic about it.

Journal of Wine Economics

November 2007

By Domenic V. Cicchetti

Yale University

Natalie MacLean, a certified sommelier, and internationally recognized wine writer, has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, some of them having been won on multiple occasions.

Natalie can truly be described as one who has and continues to offer her creative mind, open heart, body, and soul (not always in the same order) toward her many oenologic pursuits, these within a loving framework of family and dear friends.

This literary contribution enables the reader to view Natalie in a number of different oenologic contexts that include among others: working as a vineyard laborer (one for whom having “toiled in the vineyard” now makes literal sense); working a ten hour shift in a prestigious California wine shop; playing the role of an “undercover sommelier” in a five-star Quebec restaurant; conducting informative and humor-laden wine interviews with: Randall Grahm, the imaginative and masterful winemaker of the California Bonny Doon Vineyards in Santa Cruz, California; and with the famed novelist, Jay McInerney, author of Bacchus and Me and A Hedonist in the Cellar.

Natalie also stimulates the food and wine imbibing appetites of oenophiles the world over by letting us into her kitchen where her husband, Andrew, himself an accomplished chef, cooks and serves their guests a Thanksgiving gourmet meal that would make both the most highly regarded sommelier in the United States, Andrea Immer, and my dear friend Connie Young go “Wow!”

The feast begins with a Champagne toast among guests; this is followed by foie gras, seared and served with figs and apricots that have been previously marinated in port wine. Of course, Natalie selects the wine, here a most appropriate Riesling ice wine from the award winning Inniskillin winery in Niagara. Natalie defends her choice, most convincingly, as follows: “Usually I serve the driest wines first and the sweeter ones later, so that no wine tastes bitter compared to the previous one. But dessert wines have the necessary richness to match the luscious texture of the foie gras and the perceived sweet taste of the fat.”

The second course is a roasted loin of lamb with an encrustment of black trumpet mushrooms. Natalie has selected and earlier decanted a 1966 Chateau Palmer to accompany this gustatory delight. As Natalie reasons (and who would disagree) a cabernet sauvignon is the “classic match” for the lamb entrée. And it only gets gastronomically better as the evening progresses.

In the remaining words of this review, I have chosen to pay tribute to Natalie's multiple oenologic accomplishments in her own words and in those whom she has personally interviewed for the book:

Natalie's dedication of the book: “For my mother, Ann, the ground in whose soil I have my roots; my husband, Andrew, the trellis to whom I cling; and my son, Rian, the
eternal sunshine in my life.”

As the formidable Madame Bollinger said, “I drink champagne when I am happy, and when I am sad. Sometimes I drink it when I am alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it unless I am thirsty.”

The desire to write about wine was irresistible; I couldn't believe that people would actually pay me to drink.

Although many wine lovers may not think of Britain as a winemaking nation, in fact, there are no fewer than 400 vineyards in England and Wales.

Laissez les bon temps roulez! Or Let the good times roll!

In North America, Bonny Doon was one of the first premium wineries to use screw caps.

Even with low yields, it still takes 800-1000 grapes to make a bottle of wine.

Most people would rather memorize the periodic table while getting a root canal than choose wine from a restaurant list.

A long finish means you can still sense the wine in your mouth for 8 seconds or more after swallowing.

Comfort me with cabernet. Note: A clever oenologic verbal twist on a wonderful and charming culinary masterpiece by Ruth Reichl (executive Editor of Gourmet magazine and erstwhile food and wine writer for the LA and New York Times) that is entitled “Comfort me with apples.”

Life is too short to drink good wine out of bad glasses. Note: A quote from Georg Riedel, creator of the eponymously named and famed wine glasses crafted to maximize the enjoyment of different red and white grape varietals.

European wines generally tend to be more balanced and food-friendly than New World ones.

Any idiot can buy expensive wines, but you need to know what you're doing to choose something delicious and reasonably priced. Note: A statement made by Jay McInerney, during the aforementioned interview with Natalie MacLean.

Now I understand what Alexander Dumas meant when he said of the famous white burgundies that many believe are the apotheosis of chardonnay: “Montrachet should be drunk kneeling, with one's head bared.”

A glowing toast to you, Natalie, for making this oenophile's world of experiences that much richer, even if only vicariously!

Kelowna Capital News

May 4, 2008

By Judie Steeves

Despite the fact that she loves good food but doesn't actually cook, Natalie MacLean has my undying respect for her delightful writing about all things food and wine.

Red, White, and Drunk All Over: a Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is the most readable book of wine writing I've ever read.

It's penned in a most entertaining style that makes you eager to take up where you left off.

I found myself thirsty to get back to the book to continue the journey, as she travelled through wine countries such as France and described in amusing detail her experiences touring some of the most famous wine houses in the world.

Along the way, she manages to educate, using her whimsical and merry way with words, about wine tasting, pairing wines successfully with food, the basics of winemaking, label reading and oh, so much more.

As a mom, if I didn't already have her book, I'd love to receive it as a gift for Mother's Day, along with, well, you know, a bottle of wine.

Since Mother's Day is coming up next weekend, you might consider dropping by Mosaic Books and picking it up for your favourite mom.

She'd probably also love the recipe Nat contributed, which was given to her by Chef Mick Rosacci of Tony's Markets in the U.S.

It's a simply divine salad, but unfortunately, it would be much better later in the year when the local berries are ripe. I'd say you could probably do some seasonal substituting, varying the ingredients as different fruits were being harvested here.

Nat recommends a sauvignon blanc from Sumac Ridge with it, or the 2006 Red Rooster riesling which she describes like this: “Attractive aromas of white flowers, peaches, rose petal and some lychee.”

Alternatively, she suggests a 2006 Calona Vineyards Artist Series pinot blanc, which was, incidentally, excellent with it. She says it is crisp and refreshing, with aromas of quince, honeydew and pear, and I have to agree.

For more information about wines, and pairing food with wines, she has an excellent website with gallons of information:

This is also the first week of a newly-expanded 10-day Spring Okanagan Wine Festival, which runs to May 10, so consider a ticket for an event for Mom, on her special day.

For instance, a re-designed event involving chefs and wine has been moved to the Penticton convention centre this year, but it really looks like fun.

The Chefs and Wine event is Sat., May 10, 6:30 to 9 p.m., and involves three guest chefs conducting cooking demonstrations and offering samples, paired with some of the wines from a wide variety of wineries available for tasting.

For more information, pick up an events guide at a winery, liquor outlet or tourism office, or go to the website at: 

Chicken Rolls with Polenta, plus Tomato & Caper Relish

Gerard Patrick Martin is the new executive chef at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre and one of the guest chefs demonstrating there at the Winefest Chefs and Wine event Sat., May 10. A chardonnay would pair well with this dish.

4 c. water 1 l

2 c. cornmeal 500 ml

2 tsp. salt 10 ml

4 tbsp. butter 60 ml

Boursin cheese

8 oz. boneless chicken breast 227 g

2 thin slices prosciutto 2

6-8 fresh sage leaves 6-8

6 oz. chardonnay 175 ml

2-3 peppercorns 2-3

1 bay leaf 1

1 shallot sliced in half 1

3-4 roma tomatoes 3-4

3 tbsp. capers 45 ml

2 tsp. olive oil 10 ml

1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar 2 ml

parsley, to garnish

salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Bring water and salt to a boil, add cornmeal and stir thoroughly. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring continuously with wooden spoon; then add butter and Boursin cheese and stir. Pour mixture into a 9x9-inch baking pan lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden in colour. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Place chicken breast top side down on a cutting board and use a meat tenderizer to pound it to an eighth of an inch thickness.

Place prosciutto on chicken, then place sage on top. Roll chicken breast tightly into a pinwheel and season with salt and pepper.

In a sauce pan bring the chardonnay, bay leaf, shallot and peppercorns to bubbling and add the chicken breast, seam side down. Cover with parchment and tin foil. Simmer on low for 20 to 25 minutes until the internal temperature is 180 F. Rest for 10 minutes.

Seed and finely dice roma tomatoes and place in a bowl with capers, olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Combine.

Flip polenta out of pan, cut into squares, then into triangles.

Place one piece of polenta onto the centre of each plate. Slice chicken into medallions and place one on top of each piece of polenta.

Place some tomato and caper relish at each corner of the polenta.

Garnish with some parsley.

Fresh spring greens are topped with pears, oranges, berries, toasted nuts and blue cheese and a lightened raspberry vinaigrette, in this recipe contributed by chef Mick Rosacci.

4 c. mixed spring greens 1 l

1 red pear 1

1 orange 1

1 carrot 1

1 scallion 1

1/2 c. blackberries 125 ml

1/2 c. almonds or walnuts 125 ml

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt 2 ml

2 tbsp. raspberry vinaigrette 30 ml

4 jumbo ripe strawberries 4

4 chunks Stilton or Gorgonzola

Rinse veggies and fruit. Core and thinly slice the pear, reserving 12 nice slices. Cut the remaining pear slices into one-inch pieces.

Skin the orange, removing all the white pith and remove segments of orange, reserving any juice to add to the vinaigrette. Cut carrot into matchsticks. Sliver scallion (or green onion) finely, on the bias.

Toast nuts in a skillet or on a sheet pan in the oven, then remove to a cutting board and immediately sprinkle and toss with the sea salt.

Combine reserved orange juice with the raspberry vinaigrette (optional, but it keeps the dressing calories down) in a salad bowl. Add greens, chopped pear pieces, orange, carrots and scallions and toss to mix and coat evenly with a light layer of dressing.

Mound on serving plates. Garnish each plate with pear slice fans, blackberries, toasted nuts, a jumbo strawberry and a small chunk (1 tbsp.) of blue cheese (optional) and serve with a rustic loaf of bread.

Serves 4.

Spring Greens & Fruits Salad

from Jude's kitchen

Kelowna City Living

July 2007

By Michael Botner

Enjoying a good book is a favourite summer pastime for many people. Sit back with a glass of one of Okanagan's summer refreshers, of the vine variety, and open up - a book on wine. But wine books are notoriously dry and technical - only for wine geeks.

Not this one by Natalie MacLean, an accredited sommelier, award-winning wine writer who publishes a newsletter, Nat Decants. Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass takes readers on a journey through the mysterious world of wine with verve and humour. A great read, even for novices!

Kelowna Daily Courier

September 29, 2006

By Steve MacNaull

In just a half-an-hour, wine writer Natalie MacLean is sold on the Okanagan.

“I've been a wine writer for eight years, so I've certainly written about and drank Okanagan wines, but this is my first trip here,” said MacLean, the author of the new wine book Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.

MacLean is Ottawa-based and didn't get into Kelowna until shortly before she led a workshop at the B.C. Wine Museum to kick off the 10-day Fall Okanagan Wine Festival Thursday.

But the sunshine, scenery and lake combined with the knowledge she already has of our wines wowed her.

“I've always loved the wines from here, so now I can implant the geography in my mind,” said MacLean.

“Over the weekend, I'll visit as many wineries as possible and dine out at their restaurants - especially Quails' Gate, Mission Hill and Burrowing Owl.”

The title of the author's talk at the museum was Are Wine Critics Too Powerful?

The answer is yes, she says.

“There is no substitute for your own palate. You're already an expert on your own personal taste, so drink the wines you like.”

But she also pointed out that critics have a place in bringing attention to wines and wine regions and getting people to talk about and drink wine.

MacLean also led a tasting of eight Okanagan wines - all vintages that she has recommended in her writings. They included the Tinhorn Creek 2003 pinot noir ($16.75), Gehringer Brothers 2004 riesling ($14.85) and Mission Hill Five Vineyard 2003 pinot noir ($16.99).

“I love Okanagan pinot noirs,” she said. “You have the right soil and warmth for this light and balanced red. It's well-suited to food or just for sipping.”

While a fan of the Okanagan, her book doesn't mention it.
“The book is based on my travels, mostly to France and California,” she said.

“So now that I've been to the Okanagan... definitely in book two.”

Red, White and Drunk All Over is now available in book stores, and the wine museum.

You can also subscribe to MacLean's free twice-a-month e-newsletter at

London Free Press

December 20, 2006

By Kathy Rumleski

While many think of the sparkling beverage as a stand-alone drink, award-winning wine writer Natalie MacLean, a Western MBA grad, encourages people to try pairing a bottle of bubbly with dinner.

"Sparkling wine is one of the most food-friendly wines on the planet," MacLean says, adding that only wine from the Champagne region of France is accurately called champagne.

"We think of it just for toasting, but champagne is actually a great wine to accompany a lot of other dishes that defeat other wines."

This time of year is a particularly popular time to try champagne. About 75 percent of champagne sales are made during the Christmas holiday period.

Because of this, it's also referred to as poinsettia wine, notes MacLean, who this month received a Gourmand World Cookbook best wine literature award for her first book Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass.

The awards states that they are considered the Oscars of the food and wine world. Her book, which includes a chapter on champagne, is a bestseller in Canada.

MacLean says enjoying champagne with fish dishes, such as oysters, will help to cleanse the palette for the next bite. "It has the zippy acidity that's refreshing."

One of MacLean's favorite treats is pairing champagne with potato chips. "It's a really great combination because, again, you've got this refreshing acidity that cuts away at the fat of the potato chips.

"You reach satiation pretty quickly just eating potato chips, but with champagne, you can go through a whole bag. It's great if you're watching movies on New Year's."

For the same reason, try other fried foods with the bubbly stuff.

The rose champagnes are particularly popular at this time of year because of the tone, MacLean says. "You can float a raspberry on top. It's just lovely."

Pink champagnes work well with fruit desserts, suggests MacLean, who has her sommelier certificate and has won numerous journalism and writing awards.

Long Islands Ins & Outs

Fall 2006

By Emily Macel

Whether you prefer wine from a box or fine vintage bottles, Natalie MacLean's Red White and Drunk All Over: A Wine Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is as informative as it is entertaining. Although wine is often considered a high society beverage (how many times have you been handed a wine list in a nice restaurant and balked?), it has its counterparts for the occasional drinker, and MacLean explores the entire spectrum, from a $15 bottle of basic house red, to a $2,275 bottle of 2002 Romanee-Conti.

Her descriptions of wine give the book a sensual element - it isn't about seeing the wine, but feeling it and tasting it. To invite the reader to sample what she's drinking she vividly expresses her experiences, not only taste but also in texture. She describes fine burgundy "as light and ephemeral as Ariel, but with Caliban's savage sexual energy." As she sips, she speaks to us like a translator of sensory experiences: "At first, the gently scent of rose petals flutters up. Then it changes into a mixture of earth, leather and spice - the aroma of indulgence.....the only way to convey the intensity of flavor in my mouth would be to make the words on this page burst into flames."

The title sounds like the beginning of a corny joke but the subtitle says it all - and what a journey it is! This detailed look at all aspects of winemaking and consuming reads like a travel narrative where each destination is served with a glass (or bottle, or two) of wine. Through her travels, whether in France's great wine regions or the California valleys, MacLean deconstructs the art form of winemaking: she is in a winery chatting with an owner about biodynamics; she guesses the years of wines in the murky cellars of Domaine de la Romanee Conti with vintner Aubert de Villaine; she talks with a California Zinfandel vineyard owner who has been dubbed "The Rhone Ranger"; and she sips DeMeric Sous Bois NV Cuvee champagne with novelist and fellow wine writer Jay McInerney in a small Greenwich Village restaurant called Cru.

MacLean's greatest strength in this book is the way she builds characters. She provides insights into the lives of those closely connected with the fruits of their labor. We hear about their love of the soil that nurtures their crops. We learn about the history of the vines that produce the fruit. We weigh the choices of harvesting techniques and times, grape crushing options, and aging process. And by the end, we are eager to know the answer to the highly discussed and debated question, when is it time to drink?

Los Angeles Daily News

October 17, 2006

By Fred Tasker

The Los Angeles Daily News published the same review as the Miami Herald.

Metro News

September 12, 2006

Natalie MacLean has made a career of writing about wine, which makes this book a must-read for anyone who has ever wanted to know more about the world of wine.

She traveled to the vineyards of Burgundy, she worked undercover as a sommelier at a five-star French restaurant and she shares the most important things to know when choosing a wine.

Part travel memoir, part insider guide, this book succeeds in educating every wannabe wine connoisseur.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

July 22, 2007

By Anne Schamberg

There are certain wine conundrums that require expert assistance.

Like deciding what wine to serve with Jell-O. Or figuring out whether Chardonnay goes with take-out fried chicken.

If you are stumped, it's time to visit Natalie MacLean's wine-matching Web site at The site can be searched either by a kind of food or by a type of wine. It contains more than 360,000 combinations.

As a James Beard Foundation award-winning writer and an accredited sommelier, MacLean offers credible, down-to-earth advice on food and wine pairing. She handles fairly routine stuff - like what to serve with beef stew - but she also takes on more challenging choices. (For Jell-O, one of her suggestions is a dessert wine such as Sauternes.)

She also provides information on particular wines she has reviewed recently. So if the match comes up with Beaujolais, there is a link to her recommendations for that light-bodied French red.

Under many of her general food and wine headings, MacLean offers associated recipes. With Beaujolais, for example, pitch-perfect food suggestions range from Roasted Green Beans with Garlic and Asiago to Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Soy Glaze.

MacLean's first book is "Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass." The engaging and informative book describes three years of sipping her way through the wine world and introduces some of the characters she met along the way.

Minneapolis Star Tribune

November 22, 2006

By Lee Dean

Red, White and Drunk All Over, A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass by Natalie MacLean: Behind the scenes and characters in the wine world, by an award-winning wine writer, who also is a sommelier.

Modesto Bee

December 24, 2008

By Tom Bender

You may want to consider giving a book to a wine enthusiast.

"Windows on the World: Complete Wine Course," by Kevin Zraly, is still my favorite.

It is updated annually and is packed with easy-to-read information. The new edition appears to have improved maps and added a wine quiz section.

The recently released "WineWise: Your Complete Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Enjoying Wine," by the Culinary Institute of America, provides a wealth of information for any interested wine drinker.

Written by Steven Kolpan, Brian Smith and Michael A. Weiss, who teach at the institute, it offers an excellent global look at wines without getting too opinionated. Excellent color photos and labels help paint a picture for the reader.

The authors stay away from vintages, and while a number of wine import recommendations are more suitable for finding in the Bay Area or on the East Coast, the book provides just enough explanations without becoming too aloof.

A lighter read and a good stocking stuffer is Natalie MacLean's "Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass."

An accomplished wine journalist and sommelier, MacLean writes about her journeys and adventures in an engaging way that makes you wish you were along for the ride. It's available in paperback.

If you have to buy a book for the ultimate wine snob, look no further than the "1001 Wines You Must Taste Before You Die," by Neil Beckett. Updated this past year, and at almost 1,000 pages, it comments on collectibles and hard-to-find wines.

The emphasis is on imports and special vintages, and you could die just trying to find some of them.

The book features descriptions, along with matching photos. It is informative and would be great for the person with an unlimited budget.

Monkey Biz

June 28, 2007

By Michelle Morra

Anyone who's curious about wine, or wants to develop a curiosity about it, will find inspiration in Red, White and Drunk All Over, a book by Ottawa-based sommelier and wine writer Natalie MacLean. It's a credit to MacLean's writing that I, who love wine but have never been motivated to become a connoisseur, found myself aching to visit France, descend into an ancient cellar with an eccentric wine-maker and be handed a dusty bottle of a rare vintage there in the musty darkness.

Having never paid more than $25 for a bottle in my life, I now thirst for a taste of deep, dark, velvety wines whose flavours echo not only their fruit but also the layers of ancient rock and soil the vine roots met in their long travels. Not that I'm qualified to say what dark or velvety even tastes like, but I swear I've tasted it while reading this book.

I didn't know I cared about wine, but reading about gnarled remnants of vines that once fed the Benedictine monks and the kings of France taught me it's not to be taken for granted.

MacLean -- who clearly had a fantastic adventure -- takes us from Burgundy to California's Sonoma Valley, then back to France for a lesson on the effervescent nectar of the Champagne region. She leads us to share in her own learning experience and partake in her passion. The book also explores the realm of famous wine critics and their place in the industry, as well as what it's like to try to enlighten wine buyers in a liquor store.

We learn how important (or not) is the shape of a glass. We become intimately acquainted with wine at a dinner party, wine through the discriminating nose of a sommelier, and learn about aging and storing wine, pairing wine with food, the art of describing wine, and where price fits (or doesn't) into all of this.

Not that Red, White, and Drunk All Over has made me much more wine-savvy than I was - I'll leave expertise to the experts -- but the book made me want to taste, buy, store, open and savour. I understand now what possesses someone to amass a collection and start their own wine cellar. The book has whetted my appetite. Having read about flavourful wines, my palate wants more than just to read about them. My palate wants to drink.

I appreciated MacLean's accessibility and the complete lack of pretense in her writing. Her tone is witty and sometimes self-deprecating. Best of all, she isn't afraid to recognize wine as an alcoholic beverage. When describing how a wine tastes, she also shares with the reader how the liquid felt as it coated her tongue, slid down her throat and gave her a blissful buzz. Her joy is infectious.

More is Less

December 23, 2007

By Sean Calder

Are you looking for a cool present for that certified wine geek (or vino neophyte) on your list? This would make a great gift.

I was really looking forward to reading it. I zipped through it, then lent it to Graham. We both really liked it.

On her site and in her weekly email newsletter, Natalie takes a fresh and decidedly unpretentious approach to wine - and I really appreciate that. I loved the fact that she not only writes about appreciating wine's flavors and aromas; she also made it clear that, like many of us, she likes the buzz you get after a few glasses.

She includes chapters on visits to California and France (one each for Burgundy and Champagne), spending a night as a sommelier in a fancy restaurant, having dinner with author Jay McInerney and, of course offers up tips on wine - from food and wine pairing to the type of glass to use.

All in all, it's an well-written, amusing and informative read. It's obvious that she had a great time writing the book and that enthusiasm makes its way onto the page. How can you not like that?

More Living

December 2007

By John Schreiner

If the gift has to be shipped, wine is not ideal (bottles are heavy and breakable). Go online to Indigo and choose a wine book, which Indigo will wrap and ship for you at better mailing rates than the post office gives you.

A good primer for someone just getting into wine is Natalie MacLean's Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. An excellent Ottawa wine writer, MacLean teaches through anecdotes from her personal experience.

Mountain Views News

January 11, 2007

By Vince Pirolli

From vineyard worker, to wine maker, wine sales person, sommelier, award wining wine writer, wife, and mother. Natalie has done and is doing it all.

Her new book offers the wine novice and seasoned wine lover all the history, fun, and amusing facts from grape to bottle to glass. And that really is what enjoying wine is all about.

I have many wine books in my collection, but Natalie's new book is definitely one of my favorites. It should also be on your bookshelf.

My Table

April-May 2007

By Peg Lee

Natalie MacLean's Red, White and Drunk All Over is much more than the romp its title implies. It is a jolly good read as well as an autobiographical exploration of the authors' love affair with wine, written by Canada's best wine writer. With the author's easy style, one will not become drunk with too much information all at once. Rather, it comes in small sips in order that the reader may savor each mouthful.

While MacLean inserts enological information into her explanations as to how wines are made, promoted and marketed, the book is neither dry nor boring. She seduces the reader into the wine world - not just swirling, sniffing and tasting, but also who, what, why and how.

One thing is certain, that author writes with passion. This is from her introductions describing her first taste of a very good wine: "The wine flushed warmth up into my cheeks, down through my shoulders and across my thighs," In fact, there are great mental images throughout the pages, such as a brutal sun beating down on her back as she picks grapes all the while thinking of the labor as a possible weight-loss program. She notes finding a male winemaker attractive and feeling servile working as a restaurant sommelier. MacLean also pokes fun at herself, such as the time she went to a parent-teacher conference after a wine tasting only to later discover that she had a purple circle across her nose from deep sniffing earlier.

Her writing is full of sensual eloquence that is seldom encountered in non-fiction books. Whether marrying wine to food, narrating the Robert Parker/Jancis Robinson rivalry, or tackling the ever-simmering Old World wines versus New World wines debate, the author gives enough information to allow the reader to make one's own decisions. Her images are vivid, as though describing events and people to someone on the phone, but then she paints on another layer beyond physical description. One can almost smell the dirt!

Above all, she nails people. French winemaker Lalou Bize-Leroy comes across as the terror of le terroir. (one can understand why her own sister forces Bize-Leroy out of the family's Domaine de la Romanee-Conti business.) Madam also opined that wine writers should write what they fell while tasting wine, not nonsense about this berry and that. It is something MacLean has taken to heart.

Red, White and Drunk All Over is a slim book for all the information the author packs between its covers. It includes not only grapes and wines, wine producers and negociants but also those who made/make their fortunes writing, promoting and selling wines. Unlike many other books on wine, it lacks pretension, and the reader comes away more knowledgeable and liking the instructor

Napa Life

October 9, 2006

By Paul Franson

Just when you think writers have said everything there is to say about wine, an entertaining new book on the subject appears. The latest is Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass the first book from James Beard and IACP award-winning writer Natalie MacLean.

Its promotion describes it as a “ wine-doused blend of Kitchen Confidential and Sideways” and that's not far off base. It's a tour through the world of wine that will surely drive readers to chuckle - and have a sip.

Instead of just describing the world of wine from afar, MacLean digs in, taking a job as an undercover sommelier at a five-star French restaurant, where she learns - and tells us -- how to order wine without being intimidated by snooty sommeliers.

She also sold wine in a high-end wine shop in New York City and at a liquor store in San Francisco, telling readers what to look for when faced with a wall of bottles and a dinner party in an hour. In between, we get a glimpse of the famous feud between Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, two of the world's best-known critics.

The book is both informative and amusing and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in wine.

New Pharmacist Magazine

Winter 2007

By Anne Bokma

Growing up in a Scottish family of beer and whiskey drinkers, very little in Natalie MacLean's youth suggested she would become, one of Canada's most famous wine writers. Indeed, her first real drinking experience involved chugging a half bottle of syrupy, sparkling wine at a high school dance.

She enjoyed her first taste of fine wine on a dinner date with her future husband, recalling the moment with a poetic sensibility in her new book, Red, White and Drunk All Over, A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. “It tasted like a sigh at the end of a long day: a gathering in, and letting go… My mind was as calm as a black ocean.”

And so began MacLean's love affair with the grape-a relationship that has led to many prestigious international writing awards such as the World's Best Drink Writer award in 2003, to her becoming an accredited sommelier and launching Nat Decants, a hugely popular website and e-newsletter with more than 80,000 subscribers in 36 countries.

In an amusing and down-to-earth style, MacLean charts her growth from a wine newbie to a respected connoisseur who can tell you precisely why wine from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti-which some consider the greatest vineyard in the world-might be worth thousands of dollars a bottle. With an enthusiasm for wine that borders on giddy, MacLean eagerly shares her travels, first-person experiences and insights with readers.

She crosses the globe to introduce us to grape growers in Burgundy, zinfandel producers in the Sonoma Valley, puts in a shift as a wine steward in a fancy Quebec restaurant and shares drinks and stories with the New York writer and wine enthusiast, Jay McInerney. Along the way, we learn a little something about growing grapes and making wine-without a lot of the high falutin' enology.

The book has plenty to keep purists interested, but there's also advice for casual wine drinkers (for example, on why expensive wines aren't always worth it while cheaper labels can be very respectable).

MacLean seems to love everything about wine-not just the history, selection and storing of it-but the drinking of it as well. “I wouldn't be writing about wine. if it weren't for the buzz,” she says. And she sings its praises as a refreshment that strengthens the bonds of friendship and increases self-awareness. “Wine brings us together and brings us closer to ourselves. In drinking it, we find camaraderie and consolation.”

Niagara This Week

December 1, 2006

By Lynn Ogryzlo

She's one of my favorite writers. I love the way she weaves words into visual expressions instead of statements; possesses the ability to see humor in ordinary events and approaches everything from the point of pure innocence.

But the most important feature of Natalie MacLean's new book, Red, White and Drunk All Over is how she presents the traditionally intimidating subject of wine. Natalie writes stories about wine on a parallel with our own lives; stories that dig deep into the psyche of the everyday consumer - even if you know nothing at all about wine. With mere words alone, Natalie carries you along her unique journey and has you believing you're right there beside her riding in the vineyard tractor. You just can't put the book down until the ride is over.

This book should top the list of holiday gifts this year. It's perfect for someone who loves wine, even better for those who would love wine if given half a chance and a fantastic read for anyone who is just plain thirsty.

With glass in hand, I read the introduction, which explains her journey or free fall into the world of wine to each and every delightfully amusing story of her vinous milestones. At times she resists tradition or scoffs at protocol but she's always full of vinous insight. With each and every story she's pulled further and further into this delicious and fascinating world. It's not long before you realize that for Nat, it's not so much a passion for wine as it is a sensuous obsession for what wine has to offer. Hence the difference.

It's this difference that is very rarely written about; the obsession for wine and how it makes every day life that much better. It's a book that is more about a good life with wine as it is a wine book.

In Red, White and Drunk All Over, A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, you won't find any listings of wines with intimidating descriptions. By her own admission, “wine descriptions often have a faint scent of condescension over a robust layer of barnyard by-product”. She admits of thinking of Brad Pitt when she hears a wine described as “muscular, tight or rakish”. “Legendary concentration” is what she needs to figure out her income tax return and “perfectly integrated” describes her son's school - but never wine. So she resists the typical wine speak and it makes the book refreshing.

If you're giving this book as a Christmas gift, I recommend you also pick up some classical music, a bottle of wine and a good quality wine glass. This is how I read the book. With sultry music playing softly in the background, a beautiful glass half full with my favorite wine, I let my favorite chair devour me as I sank deeply into Nat's book. Within minutes my reality blurred and I was in an amusing world, exploring wines with Natalie MacLean.

North Shore News

November 3, 2006

By Tyler Hopson

Wine lover Natalie MacLean is quite possibly the most gutsy critic in Canada.

On maternity leave several years ago and with a newborn son at home, MacLean picked up a copy of a magazine that didn't have a wine column and decided that was a void she could fill, having completed her training as a sommelier and taken several wine courses.

She called the editor and asked her about the idea. To her surprise, the editor liked MacLean's idea and requested a sample wine column.

"I always joke that only in a sleep-deprived state would you think that you could go from high-tech marketing to writing about wine," says the former marketing professional who lives in Ottawa.

The sample column led to a regular place in the magazine and the rest, as they say, is history. MacLean recently stopped in Vancouver to promote her first book on wine: Red, White, and Drunk All Over.

In the book, MacLean describes her travels to various wine regions around the world, concentrating on the unique traits that make a region special, such as the zinfandel grape in California.

Unlike many wine writers, MacLean goes beyond the factual and into the lives of her subjects, including her own, saying she finds stories about people more interesting than just wine trivia.

"There's a place for encyclopedias. But really I tell stories about people's lives," says MacLean. "If you add in the personal layer, people resonate with that."

After her stop in Vancouver, MacLean headed to the Okanagan.

It was her first visit to the region, but MacLean says she is no stranger to Okanagan wines, listing Blue Mountain, Burrowing Owl and Quails' Gate as a few of her favorite labels.

As for a favourite wine variety, MacLean says pinot noir would be close to the top of her list. Of course, she says the best bottle of wine is always "the one somebody else pays for."

MacLean sums up her love affair with wine by way of a nod to the sensual and intellectual sides of wine, saying people respond to wine with the mind and the body.

"Sure there's the intellectual. But there's also the buzz," she says. "That's why we don't have orange juice critics."

Fellow wine lovers can sign up for MacLean's regular electronic wine newsletter, which offers top picks and other tidbits of information on the international wine industry, at

Northside San Francisco

February 2007

By Jeannine Sano

Red, White, and Drunk All Over: a Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass by Natalie MacLean seemed to be written just for people like me. Instead of droning on about technical details of viticulture and vinifications, Red, White and Drunk All Over tells the stories of people and the dramas behind wine - everything from the wine regions of Burgundy, Champagne and California, to wine stores on both coasts, to Riedel stemware, to the battle of the wine critics, wine tasting, dinner parties, and ordering wine in upscale restaurants - all punctuated with personal anecdotes that are so funny I nearly spit out my wine. MacLean is endearing and entertaining, as well as informative. By the time I finished the book, I felt like I had a new wine loving friend.

Northwest Herald

March 31, 2007

By Andy Andresky

This is a wine anthology of sorts, an inside look at the passion created from fermented grape juice.

As if hearing the same beautiful love song every day, wine invokes a remembrance of times MacLean spent with icons, such as Robert Parker, Randall Grahm, Lalou Bize-Leroy and others. MacLean's book needs to be shared like a bottle of wine with a friend.

MacLean explains sugars, acids and tannins through story-telling. One of the great vintner quotes in the book is “Aging zin (fandel) in French oak is like putting perfume on John Wayne.”

Northwest Palate Magazine

January 8, 2007

By Megan Flynn

Why can Champagne come only from Champagne? Does wine really need to be decanted? How closely should you follow Robert Parker's wine recommendations? Who is Robert Parker anyway?

The wine world can often seem daunting and exclusive, catering only to those who have mastered lists of grape varietals, growing regions, and the world's thousands of wine producers. But wine writer Natalie MacLean shows us that it doesn't need to be that way.

An accredited sommelier whose numerous wine writing honors include four James Beard Journalism Awards, Canadian-born MacLean helps demystify the complex world of wine. Her comical first-hand experiences remind you that you're not the only one who feels silly spitting while tasting wine or intimidated by restaurant wine lists.

Though there are plenty of names, numbers, and facts throughout the book, MacLean offers a bright and breezy perception of wine without discrediting its vast culture and tradition. Readers take a journey from the temperamental pinot noir grapes of Burgundy to California's gnarled old zinfandel vines and through the maze of France's Champagne cellars. MacLean trudges through vineyards with iconoclastic California winemaker Randall Grahm, stands in as a sommelier for an evening at an award-winning French restaurant, and argues for and against utilizing the numerical wine ratings popularized by über-critic Robert Parker.

With a girl-next-door attitude, MacLean includes tidbits of wine etiquette like the nuances of uncorking a bottle of Champagne, inquiring about a restaurant wine list without seeming either pretentious or cheap, and never calling a Pinot a Pinot while visiting Burgundy. MacLean reminds us that wine is not simply a drink, but an iconic beverage fermented in so much history and tradition that you can't help wanting to taste each story as you raise the next glass to your lips.

Occasions Magazine

Fall 2006

By Mark Dewolf

In Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, Maritimer Natalie MacLean sweeps readers behind the scenes of the international wine world, exploring its history, visiting its most evocative places and meeting its most charismatic personalities.

One Wine Per Week

August 23, 2007

By Rickie Miyake

Many of you have probably already read Natalie MacLean's book, Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass. It's been on the store shelves since August of 2006 but slow me, who is normally reading business books, only found out about it recently.

I'm glad I did!

One of, if not the best wine-related books I've read is Kermit Lynch's Adventures on the Wine Route. The man knows how to write, and obviously, get you interested in wines. Mainly the wine he imports, but he's done much to promote the wine industry overall. Long ago I began enjoying his monthly store newsletters, often thinking they should be strung together in a book, and when I found out he had actually written a book I dashed to the store to get my own copy.

Ms. MacLean's book reminds me of Mr. Lynch's. Marketing experts will tell you that if you want to capture someone's attention, tell a good story. That's what both of these authors do - they tell a good story, taking you along on a first-person journey through their world of wine and making you feel as though you are participating with them in their endeavors.

Contrast this to the majority of wine books, which, in my own little opinion, all seem like reading school textbooks and, like school textbooks, all pretty much tend to say the same thing. Or become dated, as in the case of books that contain wine reviews and ratings. You read them for facts and not for entertainment. There's definitely a place for them but I wouldn't call them pleasure reading.

Red, White and Drunk is without a doubt entertaining but it's also educational. Rather than listening to a recitation of facts, however, Ms. MacLean engages you as her buddy while she humbly shares her knowledge with you. And quite humorously too, I might add.

I won't go into much detail about the book. The adventures include visits to some very famous domains in Burgundy, being an employee for a day in a wine shop, a guest sommelier, prepping and hosting a dinner party, etc. - just the kind of things she does as part of her job and part of her life - but made very engaging by her writing talent, including her choice of words and descriptions.

There's only one little thing I didn't care for that much: the title. I guess because Red, White, and Drunk conjures up an image like the picture I use for my profile. Ha ha, no need to explain further, is there?

So why am I reviewing her book so late in the game? Because I just found out about it and I wanted to tell her thank you for a good read and if you haven't read it, I highly recommend doing so.

Also, I don't mean to imply that MacLean's and Lynch's books are the only games in town and everything else is a dry textbook; there's others in the same vein (or at least I think they are) that I plan on getting to, such as Lawrence Osborne's, The Accidental Connoisseur : an Irreverent Journey Though the Wine World, but I've got so many books in the queue, who knows how long it'll take me to get there.

Meanwhile, I wanted to say that Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass is a worthwhile read. And so is Adventures on the Wine Route, if you haven't had the chance to read it yet.

Ontario Wine Review

August 2, 2007

By Michael Pinkus

I'm a self-admitted slow reader when it comes to books. It's not that I don't like to read, in fact, it's just the opposite - but I like to read every word. I have friends who are speed-readers, they can finish a good-sized book in an evening, but they always go back and re-read certain books and their explanation is, “each time through I get more out of it.” I, of course, have the same thought each and every time I hear this: ‘If they had read it “properly” in the first place that would not be an issue,' in my opinion anyway.

I am also an opportunistic reader. When I was younger, I used to read every chance I got: the bus, school hall, before bed, you name it (I've even been known to read on the treadmill at the gym). But these days I find myself busier than I was when I was 15 (go figure), so I read when opportunity allows - and that is usually in the smallest room of the house (it has the best lighting don'tcha know?).

Having said all that, I just finished reading Natalie MacLean's book “Red, White and Drunk All Over.” (Natalie, if you are reading this, sorry it took me 6 months - guess my comments won't make the book's jacket). And let me say what a wonderful, engrossing read it was. There were times I found myself nodding in agreement, and other times, I had a “you-know-it” smile going on. Somewhere in the first dozen or so pages, I found myself jealous of her husband, Andrew, because he had found this wonderful wine-maven before I did.

Her stories are ones we can all relate to (nervous at a first encounter; job stress); yet all with an insider's flair (cellar tours in Burgundy, interviewing Jay McInerney over dinner, a night of roll playing - sommelier). She covers all the major bases from bubbly to glassware, dinner parties to wine stores, sommeliers to harvesting … and many in-between and out-between (I'm trying to coin a new phrase here).

Her everyday-woman-on-a-wine-journeyspeak did not get bogged down in wine mumbo-jumbo or technobabble … she kept everything concise and on an every-persons level (meaning you don't have to be a wine geek to appreciate her stories). And each chapter starts afresh with a new adventure.

I'm sure by now everyone has a copy of this book on their bedside table, on their book shelf, or at the very least, on the shelf behind the porcelain; but for those of you who don't, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy - share in the fantasy of being alongside Natalie.


May 29, 2008

By Paige Williams

Get ready to get thirsty. In the disarmingly funny Red, White, and Drunk All Over, wine enthusiast Natalie MacLean discusses her adventures in travel and wine. Perfect for the novice wine drinker, the book offers lighthearted instruction in the art of selecting, hosting and, of course, drinking. Our favorite part? MacLean's seemingly ridiculous-but surprisingly delicious-wine pairings, like French champagne and potato chips.

Oxford Wine Room

January 18, 2007

By Julian Schultz

Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, is a wine book by Natalie MacLean, a sommelier and popular wine writer. Unless you're an oenophile who hates himself/herself, you will buy this book!

I've written some 800-plus wine columns and I have a writer's ego, so for me to say that this wine book contains chuckles, information, entertainment, exciting reading that far transcends anything I have done even surprises egotistical me with my high praise.

This 274-page hardcover book is pure delight from beginning to end. The chapter on Purple Prose with a Bite -- about Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson had me grinning as I underlined significant sentences.

Romanee-Conti, Australia, Riedel wine glass, food and wine, Alsatian Rieslings, Champagne, “aging zin in French oak is like putting perfume on John Wayne” - a whirlwind of just a few of Natalie's exciting wine experiences. Only reading her book does justice to these vinous adventures.

I wish I had the talent and wit to write such a book that would bring so much information and pleasure to my readers. The book now supersedes bottles of wines as gifts to worthy friends.

Palate to Pen

August 27, 2007

By Jennifer Adams

Natalie MacLean's writing was a gracious surprise plucked from Google. Her book, “Red, White, and Drunk All Over” an added bonus for when our pup begs my attention away from the computer toward a more comfortable lounging location.

MacLean approaches wine, its history and current events with an expertise that serves as the base for her prose, but her passion, humor and tangible/whimsical style of writing keeps the pages turning. I'm about halfway through the book, and will update you with a proper review at a later date. But until then, pick up a copy and share your comments with me.

Park Cities News

November 9, 2006

By Darryl Beeson

This is a wine-doused blend of the hit books Kitchen Confidential and Sideways. Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass is the first book from James Beard and IACP award-winning journalist Natalie MacLean. She admits that her book may surely drive readers to drink.

For example, MacLean takes a job as an undercover sommelier at a five-star French restaurant, we learn how to order without fear (and how much to tip when throwing down $500 on a bottle).

Another time, she works retail in a high-end wine shop in New York City and at a liquor store in San Francisco, telling readers what to look for when faced with a wall of bottles and a dinner party in an hour. In between, we get a glimpse of the famous feud between Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, two of the world's best-known critics. Back at home, Natalie invites friends over for a blind tasting and teaches them how to expectorate (try it in the shower first, please) and extols the screw cap, which provides a better seal than traditional cork and assures buyers no chance of wine contamination with TCA from cork bark.

Wine can be fun. This book is a perfect holiday gift, perhaps to give to yourself.

Passionate Foodie

February 28, 2008

By Richard Stoneham

Red, White And Drunk All Over

"I think many of us have a secret cellar in our minds where we collect our empty bottles filled with memories."
(Natalie MacLean, p.3)

A quote that resonated with me, that made me ponder it and nod in agreement. And also a quote that hooked me on the book that contained it. A book I quickly and ravenously devoured.

Red, White And Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass by Natalie MacLean was reprinted last fall in a trade paperback. It contains about 304 pages and includes an Introduction, ten chapters, and an Afterword. The book is an interesting, fun, educational and easy read.

I am going to provide snapshots of the various chapters, and then summarize my overall thoughts on the book.


The quote at the top of the page is from the Introduction. And it intrigued me sufficiently that I wanted to read further. The Introduction includes a bit of a biography of Natalie, of how she got into wine. Her first good wine was a brunello at an Italian restaurant. She also describes some of her wine education, mentioning how the Internet, including blogs, has made it easier than ever to learn about wine.

She even dares to discuss what is often not discussed, alcohol. Natalie mentions she enjoys the buzz from the alcohol and that much wine writing seems to ignore the alcohol.

Chapter One: The Good Earth
What an intriguing way to view Pinot Noir. It definitely is the view of someone who treasures terroir. And maybe such a viewpoint may separate the French region of Burgundy from some other producers of Pinot Noir around the world.

In this chapter, Natalie visits the Burgundy region and speaks with a couple producers, including Aubert de Villaine, the vintner at the famous Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. Natalie provides some history of the region as well as information about its wines. There is a discussion of technology and winemaking, as well as biodynamics. A fascinating chapter which kept my interest.

Chapter Two: Harvesting Dreams

From France we now journey to California to explore Zinfandel, especially the Seghesio Family Vineyards. There is some history of Zinfandel and the Seghesio family. What helped the Zinfandel industry, and hurt it as well, was the creation of White Zinfandel. A 2005 study found that 35% of US wine consumers drink White Zin. So it certainly remains extremely popular. Natalie also discusses how old Zin vines are diminishing and that is raising the cost of good Zin.

Natalie also visits Bonny Doon Vineyards and speaks with its president, Randall Grahm, a rather unique individual. This is a humorous section as Randall is quite the character.

Chapter Three: The Merry Widows of Mousse

We now return to France to explore the sparkling world of Champagne, especially how several French widows took control over Champagne houses when their husbands died. "Veuve," such as in Veuve Clicquot means "widow." The chapter discusses much about Champagne, from its history to its making, including how it fits into our culture. There are also some mentions of sparkling wines from other regions. Amidst all the information, there are plenty of interesting anecdotes as well.

Chapter Four: Purple Prose with a Bite

Natalie now tackles a comparison of two top and very different wine writers, Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson. She gives some background details on both and delineates the differences in their styles and approach to wine. She also discusses the power of Parker's opinions. The discussion extends to wine rating systems in general, including how Natalie eventually decided to provide ratings for her readers.

I was especially struck by Natalie's comments on wine tasting, how context is very important. If you go to a large tasting, have a couple dozen sips of various wines, you are not really tasting the wine as you would normally. For example, you are not savoring the wine with dinner. Thus, the wine may not taste the same with dinner as it did at the large tasting. Makes you think about how large tastings could potentially be improved, maybe by adding complimentary foods to the wines.

As for my fellow wine bloggers, what do you see as your role? Are you more of a crusader like Parker, or more of an educator/entertainer like Robinson? For myself, I would have to say I fall more into the Robinson role.

Chapter Five: A Tale of Two Wine Stores

Do East Coast bloggers prefer more European wines? Do West Coast bloggers prefer more New World wines? For myself, I don't think it is the case. I own more California wines than any other region, though I own many Spanish wines as well. I have a more cosmopolitan palate, enjoying wines from all over the world. To me, that is part of the fun, experimenting with wine from all regions.

In this chapter, Natalie explores two wine shops in the San Francisco area, Chuck Hayward of The Jug Shop and Kermit Lynch in Berkeley. There is a discussion on why Australian wines sell so well, including Yellow Tail. Strong branding is one of the reason. It then moves on to why French wines seem to be losing ground to New World wines.

The chapter then moves on to a discussion of corks vs screwcaps as well as Internet wines sales. There is also a visit to Discovery Wines in New York which has video screens where customers can scan wine bottles and bring up information about the wine. She also provides practical advice on buying wine at a wine store. In addition, Natalie raises the point, made in a 2005 New York Times article that women buy 77% of wine and drink 60% of it. That statistic continues to be supported by more current studies, which I have posted about before.

Chapter Six: A Glass Act

We begin this chapter with George Riedel and his stemware. Riedel actually has planned the wines for his funeral! Natalie does some tests and does conclude that wine glasses affect taste. But from the quote above, you can see her primary interest and I would certainly agree with her. She also mentions "glass snobbery," commenting on how there are over 103 different Riedel glassses which does seem overkill.

Natalie provides some advice on holding your own home wine tastings as well as a lesson in how to taste wine. She finishes with a discussion on wine language with her hope that such language brings people together in a shared commonality rather than excludes people unfamiliar with the language. Again, a very valid point.

Chapter Seven: Partners at the Table

We begin here with dinner parties, move on to cooking with wine and then on to decanting. Then, on to Champagne as an apertif including using a sword to open a Champagne bottle. And yes, Natalie succeeded in opening a bottle with a sword. We move on to toasts and finish with some comments on pairing food and wine. This chapter basically touches on all the main components of a dinner party.

Chapter Eight: Undercover Sommelier

Natalie spent a night at a French restaurant in Quebec working with a sommelier. She then explains about restaurant wine lists, their pricing and how to assess their usual mark-up. There is also a discussion on house wines as well as tipping for your wine. This chapter has some very practical advice as well as interesting anecdotes.

Chapter Nine: Big City Bacchus

Now wouldn't the language of that quote make you want to run out and get a bottle of Pinot? Miles from Sideways would definitely agree.

Jay McInerney is a famed novelist and also a wine writer for House & Garden magazine. Some of his columns have been collected in a couple books. Natalie spends some time with him discussing wine. Their discussion includes some practical advice on how to start and stock your wine cellar as well as on attending wine auctions. McInerney is a colorful individual with a real flair for writing.

Chapter Ten: Wine Meets Its Toughest Matches

This is not your ordinary food and wine pairing chapter. Instead, Natalie addressed some of the more difficult dishes to pair. These include: 1) Salads and veggies (Natalie consider veggies the most challenging food to match with wine); 2) spicy dishes; 3) take-out & frozen food; 4) cheese; and 5) chocolate. Definitely a practical chapter with lots of great suggestions. Natalie also has an online food matching tool which you can use to get suggested pairing for almost any food.


This short section mentions the challenge of writing this book, Natalie's newsletter (which I recommend you subscribe to) and that Natalie wants to write more books, to cover other wine topics.

I went into more detail on all of the chapters as I very much enjoyed this book. First, Natalie is an excellent writer, and not just as a wine writer. There is poetry in her language, beautiful and lyrical. So many compelling quotes. It was a real pleasure to read. Second, the book is very interesting. Though it educates, it also tells a good story and you never feel like she is lecturing. If you have insomnia, don't try to use this book to go to sleep. Third, she presents a balanced view on some of the more controversial topics such as biodynamics and Robert Parker. Fourth, she is very thorough, covering many different topics in each chapter. I was amazed about all of the matters she addressed in the book. Fifth, she offers much practical and valuable advice throughout the book. That makes it very useful. Sixth, the book makes you think about a variety of subjects. And all good books should make you think.

Who would benefit from this book? Everyone, of all levels of wine knowledge. There was plenty of new information I found in the book. And it would provide fertile ground for wine bloggers as well, plenty of ideas which could lead to new posts. It is easy to understand so even wine novices would enjoy it. It is a smooth read, not at all like a textbook. This is a book you will return to again and again. To review some of her practical advice or to mine the book for discussion ideas.

I highly recommend this book.

Peterborough Examiner

March 21, 2007

Book on wine a great read for all wine lovers

By Shari Darling

The Peterborough Examiner published the same review as The Intelligencer.

Philadelphia Weekly

February 22, 2007

By Kirsten Henri

Looking for a wine book that isn't just a pretentious outpouring of minutiae? One that reads like a clever yarn spun by a friend who also happens to be highly amusing, deeply passionate and whip-smart? A friend who, though she's an accredited sommelier, can still talk about wine without sounding like a windbag and who actually admits that a significant part of drinking wine is the buzz? With Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass wine writer and expert Natalie MacLean has done the seemingly impossible: written a wine book that's actually a page-turner.

Pinot and Prose

September 6, 2008

By Laura Lutz

I read French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano almost four years ago, and it changed my life. And I'm not just saying that - it really did. 20 pounds lighter and a couple years later, I read Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Again, it opened my eyes to a whole new way of experiencing and thinking about food.

I argue that if I had read them in reverse order, Omnivore's Dilemma would have meant very little to me; I would not have experienced the same level of connection, and there certainly would not have been the lightning-bolt moment of clarity and epiphany that I felt reading these two books the way I did.

Well, this is what happened when I read Red, White, and Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean*. Natalie MacLean is my Mireille Guiliano of wine. Unfortunately, I read this after I read The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization (my review, which I just re-read and didn't realize I made a Michael Pollan comparison there as well) by Alice Feiring. Alice Feiring is the Michael Pollan of wine (though not on quite the same scholarly level as Pollan).

I read these books in the complete wrong order. Now that I have finished Red, White, and Drunk All Over (I love typing that title), I should go back and read Battle for Wine and Love again. But I don't know if I can undo my mistake…

I'm going to make a bold statement: Red, White, and Drunk All Over is a universally accessible book about wine. Anyone can read it and they'll understand what the heck MacLean is talking about. You'll walk away with a better of understanding of wine merchants, of the Champagne region, of wine writers and critics, of how to host a wine tasting party. Will you walk away with a better understanding of wine itself? Perhaps not.

If anything, this book is the precursor to bigger, bolder books about wine because this one opens you up to everything you don't know. It whets your appetite, if you will, so that you want to take it further. You want to read more and learn more. In other words, it's the perfect introductory book.

MacLean has an incredibly accessible writing style: she is Everywoman. She writes in a way that makes you say, “I want to go winetasting with this woman! She'd be a blast!” She doesn't come off as a wine snob in any way, and she's the only wine writer I've come across that has basically said, “Yeah, I like to drink, to actually swallow wine, and feel that warmth from a second (or third) glass.”** Thank god someone finally said it!

Additionally, I appreciated that while MacLean is teaching you something, she is also rolling her eyes at the pretensions and established hoo-haw of the wine world. For instance, she attends a demonstration by Georg Reidel, of the Reidel Glass company. While she is in the midst of arguing that the wine glass you use really does matter, she is also poking good-natured fun at Reidel for referring to the wine glass as his “precision tool” and describing “the velocity of the wine entering the mouth.” Again, though, while you're sniggering and giggling with MacLean (and ogling Reidel's handsome good looks), you're also learning about what it is that makes wine glasses important.

I don't want to make you think you won't learn about wine itself while reading this - don't worry, you will. I highlighted the heck out of my copy. I liked this passage: “The color tells us how old the wine is. Young whites are usually green at the edges and become a deeper yellow or gold with time; reds are usually purple or ruby in youth and turn to garnet or brick in age.” That's knowledge you can use tonight at dinner: pour yourself that glass of cabernet franc and take a look at the color. MacLean also says it's not beneficial to hold your glass up to the light (guilty!); better to hold it up against a white tablecloth or white piece of paper to gauge the color correctly. See, this is all useful, practical information you can use now.

However, as I mentioned before, this book does make you long for more info, which is in no way a fault of the book; in fact, I consider this a compliment. For instance, “deeper yellow or gold with time”…well, my glass of chardonnay already exhibits those colors (whereas my sauvignon blanc is the palest gold). But my chardonnay is only a 2005 bottle. So what's up? This is where you'll really want to delve into further reading and research, which any good introductory book on a subject will make you want to do.

On a side note, MacLean folds in some amusing supplementary information. For instance, she says that “corks flying out of champagne bottles have been clocked at fifty miles an hour.” Additionally, she has a lovely bit about the history and lost art of the toast. She shares that in ancient Greece, “toasts usually involved kissing up to the gods first. You looked up to the sky, then spilled some wine on the ground as an offering.”

I love that, especially since we do a toast every single night at our dinner table. We're a secular family so say no prayers, but we do a toast. Sometimes we toast “To the end of the week!” or sometimes we'll have a pork roast and toast “To the pig!” as a way of honoring the animal that lost its life so that we could receive nourishment. Anyway, I'm digressing… I really enjoyed this information that, while not providing deeper knowledge of wine, served to increase our appreciation of the ceremonies behind drinking it.

Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is recommended highly for the novice wine drinker. A thoroughly enjoyable, amusing read!

Portsmouth Herald

November 29, 2006

By Rachel Forrest

For wine and drink aficionados, get Red, White and Drunk All Over: a Wine Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, by Natalie MacLean, the James Beard and many other award-winning wine writer who has the very popular Nat Decants wine column. It's a very lively look at the wine world through her experiences all over the globe.

Pour Favor

January 25, 2009

By Rebecca Rethore

Reading is one of my favorite, totally self-contained escapes. Since wine became my “job” though, I've fallen off the wagon in some ways. I constantly seek more information and so I'm reading to learn, rather than for the sheer pleasure of it. But I realized the wine books I've been picking up of late are finding some middle ground; they are lighter on their feet, if you will, offering great information in a delightfully palatable package. It seems unfair to keep some of these finds to myself, so in the coming year, I hope to explore more of these texts and share the fruits of my efforts with you.

Natalie MacLean offers just one such diversion in her Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. If I knew MacLean in real life, I can only imagine she (like me) thinks she is the funniest person she knows - and is all the better for it. (I mean, come on. If you were stuck on a desert island and you only had yourself to entertain, you BETTER be the funniest person you know!) The best news is, MacLean is open about what she does and doesn't know about her subject. She is unabashed but refreshingly professional (read: respectful) as she explores wine. Her book takes you through the new vineyards of California, the history-entrenched vineyards of France, the bowels of a wine shop, the floor of a high-end restaurant and… beyond. She is nothing if not funny and thorough.

MacLean delivers something for everyone, at every stage in their wine knowledge/enthusiasm. I, for one, loved her chapters on French regions in particular - her tales of meeting some of Champagne's most important women, tromping through Burgundy…. I also enjoyed reading about her experiences trying retail for a day (and the price she paid for wearing fashionable shoes, rather than comfortable ones) and attempting life as a Sommelier for an evening.

I also appreciate how much perspective MacLean brings to the various places wine breathes (no pun intended on that one, but I'll keep it!). Case in point: while she's working in one San Francisco shop she learns how hard some shops work to meet their customers needs such that “[wine] comes alive for them”. (p. 146) It's not just about business, but sharing something special with customers - both a new wine and just as important, the genuine interaction with the customer him/herself. Both MacLean's historic ruminations and her real life revelry with her subject underscore the reason so many people I know are drawn to wine: it is a lovely, warm quilt, representing and connecting myriad facets of life.

Naturally, there are a few segments where I was less enthralled. But MacLean is witty and honest. For a subject where neither are a given, I applaud her efforts and hope she continues to capture her musings.

Providence Journal

October 25, 2006

By Chris Sherman

The Providence Journal published the same review as the St. Petersburg Times.

Quill & Quire

September 2006

By Stephen Knight

Though Natalie MacLean has a fondness for tippling and doesn't always spit out the many samples she encounters as an award-winning wine writer and accredited sommelier, she makes it clear in Red, White, and Drunk All Over that in order to properly understand and appreciate wine-from the budget plonk at the grocery store to the 1787 Château Lafite Bordeaux-you have to keep your head about you.

MacLean's book is a quirky ride-with notes of self-deprecation and an often humorous finish-through the Champagne region of France and some of the family-owned wineries of California. With patience and lightness, MacLean explains terroir and tannins, acidity and fruit, oak and smoke as she tries to demystify wine.

Readers looking for the ultimate wine to go with chicken cordon bleu or The Big Date will be disappointed-MacLean's democratic approach to wine means that there are virtually no rules, only guidelines. Want red wine with your chicken? Go ahead. Feel like chardonnay with your beef stew? There's no law against it. Expensive wines aren't always good, and budget wines are far from all bad. MacLean's done her homework and encourages all of us to do the same.

Over the course of nine compact chapters, MacLean discovers eccentric wine store owners in San Francisco, wades into the fierce debate between wine writing giants Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, discusses the merits of corks versus screwcaps, interviews a purveyor of some of the world's most expensive stemware, goes undercover as a sommelier at a Quebec restaurant, and finally, ends by sharing wine stories with New York novelist and wine enthusiast Jay McInerney.

Despite the unwieldy title, the book is like a dry champagne, a sparkling aperitif that whets the appetite for more vinous knowledge. MacLean raises as many questions as she answers, but this, she hopes, will spur readers to discover on their own if there really is veritas in vino.

Red White Wine Blog

May 2, 2008

By Doug Smith

In this bodice-ripping wine book that got widespread and excellent reviews in hardcover, multiple James Beard and IACP award-winning writer Natalie MacLean's journey through the international world of wine is the perfect companion for neophytes and wine aficionados alike.

Natalie travels to the ancient vineyards of Burgundy to uncover the secrets of the pinot noir, the “heartbreak grape” from which some of the most coveted wines in the world are made. She visits the labyrinthine cellars of Champagne to examine the myths and the mystique of bubbly.

She pulls on sturdy boots to help with the harvest at the vineyards of iconoclastic Californian winemaker Randall Grahm and goes undercover as sommelier for a night in a five-star restaurant with a wine list the thickness of a telephone directory. She looks at the influence of powerful critics, notably Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, invites readers into her dining room for an informal wine tasting, and compares collecting notes at a bacchanalian dinner with novelist Jay McInerney.

Customer Review: Wine Book Review

I have only skimmed through this book but from what I have seen I believe that it will prove informational. Also, from this book I have subscribed to a newsletter from the author and find this very informative also. I would highly recommend this to a beginner or an old hat in appreciating wine.

Customer Review: A laugh-out-loud, down-to-earth educational read

Reading this book was like listening to a girlfriend talk about a subject near and dear to both of our hearts. While reading this book, I felt like I was experiencing her journeys and education with her- and with quite a bit of a sense of humor. All to often, it seems wine educators take themselves (and wine) too seriously. This book will teach you more about wine production, selection, and food pairing without being snobby and pretentious. It was fun, easy to read, and informative. I hope Natalie will be writing more books!

Red Wine 101

August 30, 2007

By The Editors

We've been asked by a number of readers through the summer to share our favorite books on red wine and wine in general.

This is a loaded question in some respects, as just as we all have our favorite wines and varietals, tastes in wine related reading can also vary greatly.

We will start sharing intermittently our favorites wine books or books related in some way to wine -- we do love to read as a team, and most of us always have a book in the briefcase that we're working on.

One of the books we've enjoyed the most in the past year was Natalie MacLean's Red, White, and Drunk All Over. Insightful, hands on, and oh so entertaining. If I had to choose one wine book to save from the fire, this would probably be the one I would try to find first (at least today).

Regina Leader-Post

September 9, 2006

A good year for MacLean

By Nick Miliokas

Coming this fall to a theatre near you: A Good Year, directed by Ridley Scott, with Russell Crowe as a British businessman who takes over his uncle's vineyard in France. Two years ago there was the surprise hit Sideways, in which Paul Giamatti played a school teacher and failed novelist who goes on a wine-tasting trip to California with a longtime buddy. Back in the early 1990s we had the husband and wife, Peter and Annie Mayle who inherited a house and a vineyard and spent A Year in Provence.

There is something irresistible about films such as these and the books that inspired them, and even if Natalie MacLean's newly published work is not someday adapted as a movie, Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass has the same strong appeal. MacLean is informative and entertaining, and her literate, anecdotal style of writing brings to life her delightfully charming characters, if indeed the term "characters" can be applied to a work of non-fiction.

"The people animate the stories, I think," says MacLean, an emerging and highly regarded Canadian wine writer whose objective here was a book that would appeal both to the novice and to the expert. "For people who are somewhat knowledgeable and looking for more information, I wanted to take it a little further, but still keep the fun there," she says. "The experts will read it for the stories and the gossip."

Among others, MacLean introduces the reader to Lalou Bize-Leroy, dog-lover and part-owner of the iconic Domaine de la Romanee-Conti in France, and to North American Randall Graham, the anti-establishment president of Bonny Doon, whose bottles bear labels with notes that describe a certain wine as having a "Parisian brothel fragrance."

Being a so-called "participatory" journalist MacLean works undercover as a sommelier at a five-star restaurant in Quebec, and also in retail at both an upscale wine shop in New York City and a liquor store in San Francisco. Not to mention that, for those so inclined -- and aren't we all? -- she serves delicious tidbits from the infamous feud involving world-renowned critics Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson.

All of this began in Ottawa some seven years ago, specifically in what MacLean now describes as a "sleep-deprived state" that followed the birth of her son. Turning a hobby into a livelihood can be risky business, but in this case, writing about wine hasn't taken the joy out of consuming it. Quite the opposite, in fact. "It's a pretty good gig," she says. "It's so much fun. I love it. I don't ever want to retire."

At first MacLean felt like "such a know-nothing," as she puts it, and while her confidence as a wine writer has grown in proportion with her experience, MacLean was taking no chances with Red, White, and Drunk All Over when it comes to accuracy.

"Thirteen experts read the book," she says. "There are just over 3,000 facts I could have screwed up. This is a very technical subject. I hope I got it right."

For more information, visit, which supplies Nat Decants, a free bi-weekly newsletter, to all subscribers.

Reign of Terroir

August 4, 2008

By Karl Laczko

Natalie MacLean is Canada's leading woman of wine and this is her first book after years of writing on her popular web-site, Nat Decants and in numerous newspapers and magazines.

I started reading this book not long after finishing Jay McInerney's “A Hedonist in the Cellar” and the first thing that struck me was the complete contrast in style and content. “A Hedonist…” was a compilation of punchy, bite-sized articles which, at times, came across as rushed and often left you wanting more - but this was tolerable in the knowledge that it was really just an adhesion of his magazine articles.

MacLean has created well researched, substantial stories on which she writes in a flowing, easy to read manner and peppers with personal anecdotes and experiences. Each chapter is given space to allow the story to develop naturally and draws the reader in with rich detail, excellent character building and ample reference information for the wine enthusiast (although, on occasion, she pushes to the other extreme and you feel some paragraphs are unnecessarily “padded” or tangential to the main topic - such as the several pages of cellar information apparently randomly slotted in the Jay McInerney chapter, “Big City Bacchus”).

The introduction sets the tone with a full and vivid description of MacLean's early experiences with wine and how she immersed herself in the field and passed Sommelier exams, but was strictly amateur until 1998 when she only started writing after the birth of her son. It includes an epiphany moment after leaving University with a Brunello enjoyed at an Italian restaurant - anyone who describes a taste “like a sigh at the end of a long day” is clearly letting you know the emotional, almost sensual descriptions that wait in later pages.

The first Chapter, “The Good Earth”, is a vivid introduction to the complexities of Burgundy and details visits to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Domaine Leroy, Domaine Leflaive & Frederic Drouhin of Negociants Maison Joseph Drouhin. As with the second chapter, “Harvesting Dreams”, which covers Sonoma's Seghesio family and the unique Randall Grahm, it is the insights into the people which I enjoyed as much as the wine facts. All throughout the book MacLean takes the personal touch which adds to the reading enjoyment. I especially liked her admission of abject failure when it came to riddling and disgorging Champagne in “The Merry Widows of Mousse” chapter.

There are plenty of other tales but two more chapters I especially enjoyed were “Purple Prose with a bite” and “Undercover Sommelier”. The first is an informative recount of Chateau Pavie 2003 debate (also known as the War of Words) between Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker, which does a good job of stating the facts and also providing detailed profiles on these two giants of the wine tasting circuit. The second recounts an evening at Le Baccara restaurant in Quebec where MacLean puts her Sommelier training to good use and comes out relatively unscathed and with a tale that should provide some insight to those tempted by that career path.

This was my first introduction to Natalie MacLean, but it proved an enjoyable one and I can only recommend this book. Any weak areas are still informative, the general style and content is excellent and there's a good dose of lighthearted humour throughout, something I'd like to see more of in wine writing (and which I have to remind myself to retain, lest I fall into the trap of humourless prose).

September 12, 2007

By Erin Martin

MacLean traveled the world to research this book, not only meeting with industry gurus, but also stepping into the shoes of some of the hardest workers - like the restaurant sommelier, the harvest intern, and the retail store owner - to truly grasp what the wine world is all about.

The result is a book that not only teaches us in-depth about the different wines that she was learning about (I find myself using the chapter about her time in Champagne as a personal reference), but also a laugh-out-loud look at how grueling and intricate some of the jobs in this "glamorous" industry can be.

Root & Branch

April 6, 2009

By Ev Bege

I just finished reading Natalie MacLean's Red, White and Drunk All Over. It was a really fun read, actually and while it didn't go in depth into how wine goes from grape to glass, it still was filled with a plethora of information regarding wine that I never knew before (such as, it's okay to send wine back at a restaurant and generally, whites work well with creamy dishes and vegetarian dishes).

The manner with which she described wine was refreshing-- rather than rely on generic "fruit forward with dry finish"-esque language, she would fall into Proustian reverie:

"My second glass tasted like a sigh at the end of a long day: a gathering in, and a letting go... The wine flushed warmth up into my cheeks, down through my shoulders, and across my thighs. My mind was as calm as a black ocean. The wine gently stirred the silt of memories on the bottom, helping me recall childhood moments of wordless abandon." (p.2)

Holy shit. Decadent and ephemeral all at once.

It's not all like that though-- she'll then describe in a later chapter the history of the Veuve Clicquot brand (started with a bunch of widows in Champagne, France!) or Robert Parker's point scale (his nose is insured for a million $$!). Her prose vacillates between the journalistic and the poetic-- making it a fun, informative, and artful read.

Sainsbury's Magazine

May 2007

The award-winning wine writer spent three years quaffing her way around vineyards and cellars, and here she recounts a wine-soaked journey from grape to glass.

With infectious enthusiasm, she explores all aspects of the wine world, from vine to vintner, cru to critic and a hilarious night posing as a sommelier in a top restaurant.

She's a funny, readable writer, but this isn't simply a memoir, it's a guide for anyone who wants to learn more about wine.


September-October 2006

A Love Affair with Wine

By Donalee Moulton

Think about wine, and you think enjoyment and pleasure. Think about wine books and you think stuffy and flat. Fortunately for imbibers and readers alike, Natalie MacLean has put the oomph back into words about wine.

Natalie, who spent much of her childhood in Nova Scotia, endears herself both to book and wine lovers in the introductory pages of Red, White and Drunk All Over. She frankly admits that in addition to body, bouquet and balance, there is a fourth "b" to consider in any significant discussion of wine. That would be the effect of booze.

“But I have to confess, much as I'm drawn to its nuances I wouldn't be writing about wine if it weren't for the buzz. I love the way a glass of wine makes me feel-invigorated and animated, released from my natural shyness. After a couple of glasses, I'm mellowed, soothed, contemplative,” she writes.

Natalie, an accredited sommelier, infuses her 288-page book with facts about wine-and her fascination with wine. It's a heady combination. She takes us on a worldwide romp through lush (no pun intended) wine-producing regions where we meet some of the most knowledgeable and iconoclastic people in the business.

In Beaune, France, we meet 73-year-old Lalou Bize-Laroy, owner of several top vineyards in Burgundy not to mention two adored, and yappy dogs. (Only the former, however, seems to capture Natalie's heart.) From Burgundy we criss-cross the Atlantic and back, stopping en route at such destinations as California's Sonoma Valley, where we cozy up to the zinfandel grape; at Renoir Country, back in La France, we become comfortably at home with champagne. Along the way, we learn a lot about growing grapes and making wine. For instance, we learn that tannin is a chemical compound found in wood, fruit-and most parts of the grape. Over time, the tannin molecules gather together, usually at the bottom of a red wine bottle. It's what we call sediment.

In many ways, and on no less a spiritual scale, Natalie has grappled with the same problem as Akiva Goldsman, screenwriter of The Da Vinci Code, has: How to infuse her stories with facts, background, detail and explanation without preaching or lecturing. Natalie succeeds.

Much of that success can be attributed to her approach. The Rhodes Scholarship finalist and champion Scottish Highland dancer tells us not about wine itself, but about her relationship with wine-how it makes her feel, how she became an accidental expert, how she feels overwhelmed and insecure in the presence of men and women who have worked the earth, tended the vines and nurtured the fruit of their labors.

Natalie is extremely likeable, and her vulnerability attracts us both to the author and subject. Suddenly inhaling, swishing and spitting wine aren't nearly so pretentious, and learning that before Prohibition there were 713 wineries in California and only 40 afterwards becomes a factoid worth uncorking.

Of course, if this book is ever made into a movie, it will be X-rated. Natalie really does have a love affair with wine-and this intimacy laces the pages of her book. It overflows with humor, with revelation and with a sense that we have shared her more private world.

And we are invited into this world from page two onward when Natalie tells us about her first really good bottle of wine, a brunello shared with her betrothed, Andrew, at an Italian restaurant in their neighborhood. “The wine flushed warmth up into my cheeks, down through my shoulders and across my thighs,” she recalls.

At other times, her love of wine is less sensual but always heartfelt-and honest. At Bize-Leroy's she is presented with a glass of 2001 Corton-Charlemagne, what most of us would simply call chardonnay. It's apparently over-the-top delicious, and Natalie eagerly accepts a second drink.

“When my wine is gone,” she says, “I sniff the glass pathetically. I want to lick it, but draw a wobbly line of decorum.”

So much for stuffy and flat.

Santa Barbara News Press

December 7, 2006

Best Wine Book of the Year

By Dennis Schaefer

Not too many wine writers are going to use the word "drunk" in their book title, but Natalie MacLean isn't afraid to call her tome Red, White, and Drunk All Over. Though "drunk" here is likely meant as a verb (past tense), as in all the wine she's drunk to gain mastery of the subject, rather than the adjective use meaning intoxication. Still, she admits one of the reasons to like wine is for the buzz. "There's a reason we don't have orange juice tastings," she says. But her book goes way beyond that in exploring the various nuances of the wine world.

Equally at home whether visiting Aubert de Villaine at Romanee-Conti in Burgundy or the irrepressible Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon in Santa Cruz, Ms. MacLean wants to share her discoveries and insights. She poses as an undercover sommelier at a famous French restaurant as well as works the sales floor in two very different wine stores to give us an insider's view of the business. She dishes out the dirt on the war of words between wine critics Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, as well as spotlights the merry widows of Champagne -- the women who, after their husbands died, took control of their champagne houses, ran the businesses and established a reputation as some of the top champagnes in the world. She also shares her own spin on wine and food pairing.

Along the way, plenty of wine facts and explanations are woven into the breezy anecdotes; it's a painless way of learning more about wine while being entertained. So often wine books are just a boring regurgitation of the facts written by some stuffy guy with a "been there, done that" attitude. Red, White, and Drunk All Over is written with considerable passion and verve; on the basis of its infectious enthusiasm alone, this is my choice for wine book of the year.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

December 13. 2006

By Linda Brandt

Every year, someone makes the pronouncement that no one is interested in cooking anymore. But someone forgot to tell the folks who keep publishing cookbooks and the folks who keep reading them. Below is a list of the cookbooks of which I am aware, all published in 2006, and I can assure you it is a partial list of all the cookbooks published this year. I can also assure you that if you are stuck for a gift for someone, and not just for Christmas, the answer lies somewhere in this list.


Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass by Natalie MacLean

Jan. 24, 2010

Pour a Glass of Vino with Nat

By Andy Hayes

For some time now I've been friends with Natalie MacLean, whom I dare say is the world's most fantastic and down to earth wine drinker and writer. Her website, NatDecants is a fabulous array of resources for both the serious wine professional as well as those just looking to get their feet wet (although I hope not literally). Nat's book, Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is a best seller and for good reason. After her most recent holiday, I caught up with Nat to talk about her worldwide exploration for another great glass of wine.

How did you become such an authority on wine? It must truly be your passion.

Lots of drinking! You learn over time … As they say, there's no substitute for pulling corks. I let my curiousity guide me. I will always be an enthusiastic amateur, never an “expert.”

I love your purple prose - especially your view on wine writing: “…when I read about wine, I often get the odd impression that it has no alcohol in it”. Did you have any worries on telling it ‘like it is' in your book?

None whatsoever. This is my point of view and that's what readers want from me. My style and approach isn't for everyone, but if you enjoy all aspects of wine, from the intellectual to the sensory to the purely hedonistic, I'm your woman.

Where did you travel for the book?

I traveled to France to explore two of it most coveted regions, Burgundy and Champagne ; and then I went to California to visit two of the fastest growing regions, Sonoma and Santa Cruz. Other chapters also involved travel, though not to wine regions. I worked in wine shops in San Francisco and New York ; hosted a wine tasting and dinner party in Ottawa ; and worked as a sommelier in Quebec.

For my readers thinking about doing a wine-orientated trip, which region(s) in the world would you recommend? Should they go on an organised tour or research something themselves?

Wherever their palate takes them … Visit the regions of the wines you like best. Organized or independent depends on your personality. Do your homework online first though.

Thanks for sharing all that good stuff, Nat. If you needed another reason to visit her website, then go check out the wine and food matcher. A must have for any party planner or host!

South Bend Tribune

July 2, 2007

By Karen Rallo

On a lazy summer day, pull out a good book and a glass of chilled wine and just relax. May we suggest "Red, White and Drunk All Over," by Natalie MacLean. This book takes the reader on an engaging journey into the world of wine and wineries. There's valuable information to glean from the author's years of acquired knowledge. Even a non-wine drinker will savor the words until the end.

MacLean's vast experience, which includes four James Beard Journalism Awards, spills over into the World Wide Web. She now offers information on wine and food pairings, recipes and more. With more than 360,000 food and wine combinations to choose from, wine lovers will want to bookmark this site:

South Florida Gourmet

September 23, 2006

By Simone Diament

In her new and first book Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, Natalie MacLean's enthusiasm for wine is contagious. The accredited sommelier turned award-winning wine writer, with four James Beard journalism awards and five Bert Greene awards from the International Association of Culinary Professionals under her belt, has written one of the most intelligent and well-written books on wine I have read.

MacLean has transmitted her love and her thirst of good wine into an easy-to-read, educative, and amusing travelogue into the world of wine, in which each glass is a life-transforming experience.

Her passionate desire to learn about all aspects of wine leads MacLean to interview everyone from grape growers in Burgundy to upstart zinfandel producers in Sonoma Valley. Every encounter incorporates vivid descriptions of tastings and colorful personalities: Aubert de Villaine, the vintner at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Lalou Bize-Leroy, the tigress of Maison Le Roy, both in Burgundy; the famous veuves or widows that made Champagne unique among wines in the world, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards in Santa Cruz, California

MacLean never hesitates to roll up her sleeves, ruin her manicure, and even cut bothersome bangs with grape shears to get close observations and explain the world of wine in a way that is accessible at different levels of understanding.

She talks about and explains the why of 103 different shapes of glassware, works in a couple of wine stores to figure out how people can find the right bottle when faced with thousands of them, and she wades into a famous feud between Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, two of the world's best-known wine critics to determine what those scores out of 100 really mean.


June 14, 2007

By Andrew Barrow

One thing that struck me when the end of this book was in sight, was that, despite its obvious North American style and focus, the number of British critics and writers who were mentioned seemed very large. Parker had a showing too, of course.

There are also references to UK supermarkets, to the auction houses in London and the like. A sign of the dominance or at least the strength of the UK wine scene perhaps?

What you are not going to find in this book are reams of tasting notes or an encyclopedia of dry facts. Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is more a collection of essays under a unifying theme. Canadian MacLean writes about her experiences as a sommelier for the day, as a wine shop assistant in another chapter and then either reports on or interviews of people on various wine-related issues.

Facts are slipped in almost imperceptibly but it is the passion for the subject that drives the disparate chapters; not so much from (the overly self-deprecating) MacLean herself but from the people she meets and interviews - the passionate sommelier, the 'could never be a socialist' New York newspaper writer and the like.

I learnt a couple of things - which is what makes the subject of wine so fascinating anyway. There are notes on building a wine cellar, the story of the Parker-Robinson tryst, how to organise a wine tasting for friends and dinner party etiquette.

It all makes for a good read ... many people are going to be inspired.

Suite 101

April 18, 2008

By Lisa Rufle

A passionate and informative guide to wine for beginners and wine enthusiasts alike, told in a fun and accessible manner.

Natalie MacLean has a passion for wine. This is evident from the first page of her book, Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. This book presents wine to both the casual drinker and the long-time connoisseur, in a way that manages to be both highly informative and highly engaging.

MacLean's book is much like a good friend sharing her heartfelt obsession with you; you are able to feel her genuine passion for wine. She translates her first fine wine drinking experience into pure literary poetry, "the aroma of the wine rushed out to meet me and all the smells I had ever known fell away". This is clearly a sensual and evocative way to get even a novice wine sipper interested in what is to follow.

Read as A Wine Guide

Obviously, this book is meant to be read as a manual for optimum wine and food pairing choices. However, there is so much more to this book than a typical stuffy wine history book. There is no doubt that MacLean is an expert in all things wine and she knows her stuff. There was no pretentious language or down-talking, as one might expect in a wine book. The reader genuinely feels comfortable in MacLean's wine-centric world as a welcome and invited guest.

The basics are covered well: from wine production, the marketing of wine, wine tasting and the experience of sharing it with friends and family. There is also a chapter devoted entirely to champagne, which reads so well one might believe they are reading something more appropriately titled, Ode to Champagne.

Read as A Memoir

It is difficult to read this book as strictly an informative guide to wine. This book provides a journey of parallels: the process of wine-making along side the story of one woman's love affair with wine. Each wine tidbit is given in the context of a personal story, which makes this book so engaging and fun to read. The simple idea that a drink can forever cement a moment of our lives into our memories is a universal experience that MacLean finds the perfect words for.

Red, White and Drunk All Over truly is the perfect pairing of information and entertainment by someone who masters both areas with perfection. Natalie also has a companion website where she distills plenty of wine advice, including wine and food pairing, a glossary of wine-based terms and even a job board for those looking for a career in the food and wine industry.


June 15, 2007

By Richard Leader

Do you ever get the feeling that wine critics enjoy wine yet don't seem to enjoy drinking? To me, they sometimes seem to be process-freaks: they enjoy the tasting and spitting, the research and the writing, but not the drinking. This doesn't seem to be the case with Natalie MacLean.

From her biography, she claims that wine writing is the day job that funds her "late-night vinous habits." In the book, she claims to drink faster than all the other guests at dinner parties and that there seems a level of denial in 'traditional' wine writing - "when I read about wine, I often get the odd impression that it has no alcohol in it." With MacLean's writing, we get a more sensuous and holistic view of wine - not just the taste but just as important, the effect.

Red, White & Drunk All Over is - as the subtitle suggests - a journey from grape to glass, or more accurately, a journey from ground to vine to grape to bottle to wine writer to retailer to glass to mouth...

The big success of the book is that it gets a great deal of information over (some of it quite technical) without the reader ever feeling lectured to - or worse still, 'written at', something I feel sometimes with other wine writers.
As a former tech marketer, MacLean knows that keeping the audience's attention while trying to educate them in a technical subject requires a special kind of writing. So what we get is a book full of entertaining and amusing anecdote and a great deal of self-depreciating humor.

In the earlier parts of the book, the winemakers themselves can be relied upon to provide entertainment - some of them are eccentric others downright bonkers (burying cow dung during the equinox, coming out with phrases such as "wine is an inspiration of the cosmos"). Later in the book, MacLean has to provide the entertainment herself - by becoming a wine retailer for the day, hosting a tasting party or being a sommelier for the evening.

This role-playing is a great conceit - it allows the author to impart a lot of information about wine in the context in which we usually encounter it (in a shop or with food) and without patronizing us. And this is the difference between 'them and us' when it comes to wine writers - at several points in the book, there is an admission that wine critics taste wine at tastings - the rest of us with dinner or on the patio on a Saturday evening. Many wine critics just don't seem to get it - or that we just can't afford a bottle of Petrus (more's the pity). This book is different.

The book is really a product of the website ( ) - complete with its wine and food matching service ( and a free e-newsletter (with a staggering 63,000 subscribers - many of whom enter into personal conversation with MacLean). The website, the newsletter and the book all come highly recommended.

Tango Diva

April 12, 2007

By Janice Nieder

Recently I received an email from Natalie MacLean, author of “Red, White And Drunk All Over” asking if she could send copy of her book for me to review. Since, for me, most wine books are about as exciting a read as trying to plow through Les Miserables in my high school French class, I responded with a very lukewarm “Ok.”

It sat on my desk for about a month until last week when I experienced one of those no-way can I get back to sleep nights. I was looking for something to read, saw RW&D, and thought it would bore me back to some Zzz's. Wow- do I stand corrected. That Nat is one funny, cool lady and a superb writer. She's won barrels of awards, including no less than four James Beard Journalism awards.) As an accredited sommelier, she really knows her subject, but even better, RW&D provides a fascinating, fun and extremely informative read!

Her book was perfectly described as “A Year in Provence goes Sideways to enter Kitchen Confidential” since Natalie shares fascinating wine trips, invaluable tips and colorful stories with us. You'll love joining her when she goes “undercover” as a sommelier at a five-star French restaurant, or gets the inside scoop on the bad blood between two high-power critics, Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson. And you have to love someone who offers an in-the-shower tutorial on the right way to “spit”.

No time to read a whole book? (Shame on you.) But if that's really true, then I'll take pity on you and pass on another worthwhile tip: Natalie also offers an extremely user-friendly website, devoted to food and wine pairings.

The first pairing tool that really Gets Real! MacLean's site pairs wines with any dish: meat, pasta, seafood, vegetarian fare, pizza, eggs, cheese and dessert, including Jell-O and fudge, even Champagne with potato chips. You simply choose the food or wine from a drop-down menu to get the pairing suggestions. There are also lots of recipes for those planning a meal.

Among the thousands of pairings offered, here are Natalie's top 10 fun food and wine matches:

1. Popcorn with Chilean Chardonnay
2. Nachos with California Zinfandel
3. Potato chips with French Champagne
4. Pizza with Italian Chianti
5. Fish and chips with German Riesling
6. Hamburgers with Australian Shiraz
7. Smoked salmon with Canadian or Oregon Pinot Noir
8. Quiche with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
9. Canned brown beans with tawny Port
10. TV dinner steak with French or Washington Cabernet Sauvignon

Tasters Guild Journal

Spring 2007

By David Etheridge

This book is pure, unadulterated fun! MacLean is a new face on the scene of wine writing, particularly though her free web-site called Nat Decants at She has already received prestigious awards such as MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

What a romp MacLean takes us on through vineyards, wineries, wine shops and restaurants around the world. When she isn't out in the vineyards with Aubert de Villaine at Domaine de la Romanee-Conti who wouldn't let her take a power pruner to his priceless Pinot Noirs (and who would?), she is popping Champagne corks with cellar-masters at Veuve Cliquot and Roederer and liberally sprays one of them in the process. Or, she's out in Sonoma Valley picking grapes from century old Zinfandel vines with Pete Seghesio.

Then there are the episodes where she spends a day in a trendy wine shop, schmoozing with the customers; another stint as a sommelier in an upscale restaurant and many more "days in the life Nat."

Some of the events are laugh-out-loud funny. You never have a dull moment when you're with MacLean.

But in the middle of each chapter she gets sneaky. Just as you're having a good time on her rollicking adventures she slips in a serious, to the point, lesson on something like vine culture, barrel aging, import problems, screw caps, weather and climate, glassware, and on and on.

She examines the feud between wine writers Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, and has a wine filled lunch with Jay McInerney in a Greenwich Village. As her publisher claims, "After three years of sipping, spitting and slogging her way through busy wine leaves and cellar cobwebs, Natalie has collected a host of captivating stories." Yes, indeed!

When it comes to reading wine books my wife will occasionally look at the covers, browse though to look at the pictures and skim sections featuring places we have visited in the past, but to sit down and actually read the book, rarely. This one she read from cover to cover and proclaimed it the "best wine book I've ever read." That says a lot. And, she added, "I really learned a lot, too." So will you. You'll find some little bits of information you somehow missed along the way. (Even an old wine book reader like myself picked up a few new facts and ideas.)

It is also refreshing to have a wine writer who, unabashedly, loves wine - not just a taste of wine, but lots of it. Bravo, Natalie, you have brought a strong new voice to the field of wine writing and, along with your website stories and wine picks, we look for many more delightful adventures to come.

Tasting Room Confidential

November 24, 2009

She Writes With Wit and Wonder

By Mari Kane

Natalie MacLean is a gal who likes her wine buzz. The Ottawa-based wine writer says as much on page seven of her book, Red and White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. Right up front, she states,” I wouldn't be writing about wine if it weren't for the buzz.” How can she be any more honest? Despite having alcoholism in the family, she comes right out and admits to what few wine writers will: they like to catch a jag.

I'll second that emotion.

Nat's wine writing has been awarded numerous James Beard and MFK Fisher awards and she writes an immensily popular e-newsletter called Nat Decants, which has become a powerhouse of vinformation since it began in 2001. I especially like the wine and a food matcher, accessible on the right panel of this page.

But, for all the wine knowledge she dispenses to the masses - did I mentioned she is an accredited sommelier? - Natalie's history lacks front line experience. She's never worked the service side of wine or food, nor the distribution or retail sector, or in the winegrowing fields.

In an attempt to put some balance in her wine life, Nat set out for wine regions she'd never visited to get the first-hand experience she's been craving and to write a book about the wines she'd drunk all over.

Chapters on tasting in Burgundy, Champagne, Bordeaux are rich with descriptive prose and insight about the ancient producers there. And the chapter with author Jay McInerney is like soaking your brain in alcohol. But the chapters I enjoyed the most were the ones where little Miss Intellectual rolls up her sleeves and dives into one-day wine jobs. Like a vinicultural George Plimpton, this is where Nat is at her most vulnerable best, literally.

In Undercover Sommelier, she dribbles red wine on a table she is serving and gets a cold shoulder from the customer. She writes, “For the first time in my life I realize what it's like to feel servile, dismissed,” and you want to say welcome to the real world, princess.

In A Tale of Two Stores she sells wine and decides that “Working in a wine store is a lot like life: you spend most of the time waiting around for just one or two memorable moments, (which you can easily miss because you went to the bathroom.)”

Been there, thought that, too.

And in Harvesting Dreams, Nat gets down and dirty picking grapes in a Bonny Doon vineyard. In a flight of fancy, she says, “At first, I feel like a hero returning to a hometown parade: leafy green vines reach down in front of me on either side, like well-wishers wanting to shake my hand. But after three hours, the streets are deserted and I'm alone. It's backbreaking work carrying an ever heavier pail...”

Oh, her aching back.

These first-hand experiences form the character arc of this book, and create drama, which is what readers, like me, love. Much of the informational interludes - such as the pages on proper behavior on both sides of the table, which should be read by every foodie on the planet - could have been written from her office in Ottawa. But her real-life situations keep readers from falling asleep from wine theory overload. She writes with wit and wonder, and it's a treat to see her learn how the wine industry works, being brought along for the ride.

Ok, enough about Natalie MacLean, here's how you can buy her book, Red and White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.

It's a fun holiday read.

The American

December 2007

By Virginia Schultz

Red, White, And Drunk All Over has been sitting on the table next to my bed for a number of months. I've read articles by Natalie MacLean in magazines from Bon Appetit to Food and Wine and am aware she was named by Elle magazine as one of the top thirty power women. Don't ask me why, but I kept telling myself I'll read it when I have more time to enjoy her amusing and critical comments about her life in the world of wine. Yet, somehow it continued to decorate the table with its bright green and red cover until I finally picked it up one night ... and then couldn't put it down.

The book for me was pure indulgence! At a bacchanalian dinner she talks to novelist and wine writer, Jay McInerney, goes undercover as a sommelier at a five-star restaurant and writes of those power wine critics, Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, whose tastes buds have influenced both buyers and makers, whether any of us like it or not.

Someone described the book as A Year in Provence meets Kitchen Confidential and then goes Sideways. She goes from discussing champagne to giving advice on choosing wine at a restaurant (best values usually come from a lesser known region and grape) to discussing the grands dames in wine both past and present.

Like drinking a premier cru wine, I sipped this book with a great deal of pleasure. It's both a beginner's book as well as an expert's manual and the perfect gift to give to even those who don't give a grape about wine. If I were rating it as a wine, as Parker does, she'd receive at least a 99.

The Annapolis Capital-Gazette

January 12, 2007

By Tom Marquardt

New this year is Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass by Natalie MacLean. As the name suggests, the author has a devious sense of humor that keeps the idle reader smiling in her first book.

She demystifies the experience for those who care more about drinking wine than analyzing it like some chemistry project. She looks at everything from cabernet sauvignon to zinfandel through the eyes of producers, like Bonny Doon's Randall Grahm, and critics, like Robert Parker Jr. and Jay McInerney.

Ms. MacLean likes to tell her story by experiencing various phases of the wine process. She spends a day in the vineyards, a night as a wine steward in a restaurant and yet another day selling wines in a popular retail store.

Her book may not be for the collector who thirsts for scholarly research. But it is for enthusiasts who want to be entertained as well as informed.

The Artichoke Heart

June 4, 2007

By Christina Grillo

No matter how much wine I drink, and no matter how much I read about wine, it's always somewhat of a mystery to me. Don't get me wrong, I love wine, and feel that I appreciate it, but I wish I just knew more, that I could feel confident in describing what I'm drinking beyond such repetitive words as “blackberries” or “citrus.”

Natalie MacLean's recently-published book, Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, leads the way towards a better understanding of wine through an enjoyable and amusing combination of fact and storytelling. MacLean is an accredited sommelier who first began writing about wine while on maternity leave with her son, and she publishes a free newsletter called Nat Decants through her website.

Instead of writing a didactic treatise on wine and its extensive history, MacLean takes the reader on a series of adventures in the United States and France, exploring different vintages and relaying her personal experiences in the field.

As MacLean picks grapes in California, works a day in a New York City wine store, and tours vineyards in Burgundy, she creates vivid and often humorous visions of her adventures while weaving in factual information along the way. In one of my favorite chapters, she visits with the heads of several French Champagne houses, introducing the reader to the surprising fact that many are still women, a legacy from the many widows who took over the vineyards after losing their husbands to war or sickness in the 19th and 20th centuries.

In the midst of her adventures, MacLean describes the differences between New and Old World Wines, talks about how critics such as Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson influence the wine market, and provides helpful tips on pairing wine with food. With her smooth, flowing writing style and easy sense of humor, MacLean makes the wine world much more approachable to any level of wine lover. Both the novice and the more advanced drinker will enjoy the introduction to the world of vineyards, winemakers, and vintages MacLean explores.

Would we really want MacLean to completely demystify wine? I don't think so. Part of what many people savor about wine is its inherent mysteries, and the joys experienced in personally discovering a previously unknown combination of flavors and aromas. MacLean's Red, White, and Drunk All Over doesn't take anything away from this excitement; in fact, it encourages you to go out, grab a glass, and drink a wine you've never tasted before.

The Book Magazine

September 2007

By Gordon Kerr

Natalie MacLean's Red, White and Drunk All Over, a full-bodied quest for the very soul of wine, has Gordon Kerr reaching for the Cabernet.

It's hard to imagine, but once there wasn't a wine bar on the corner of every British High Street and the shelves of our off-licences were stocked with what we quaintly called British wine - a sickly sweet concoction made from imported concentrated grape juice. We sipped tea with our meals and wine was the prerogative of the toff and the traveller. Guests at posh dinner parties would slurp on claret or Burgundy and the brave souls who ventured abroad in the days before mass travel, would come home and rave about the local plonk they had guzzled in a bodega close to their campsite. They would be unlikely to find it back in Britain, though.

How things have changed. ‘Had a lovely big Coonawarra Chardonnay with some lobster tails last night', is not such an unusual snippet of conversation these days; the shelves of off-licences, or wine merchants, as they now like to be known, groan with a cornucopia of different wines from every country in the world and we nod sagely when wine pundit, Jilly Goolden, describes the smell of a particular wine as being like ‘like a wheelbarrow full of old ugli fruit'. We are all ‘connoisseurs', these days, it seems.

Our expertise is, of course, bolstered by reading about wine and countless newspaper columns make weekly recommendations while the leading Internet bookselling website lists more than 3,000 wine books. Most of them are how-tos or lists or guides to the various wine-growing areas. Now and then, however, you do stumble across a wine book which is written purely out of passion for the subject. Natalie MacLean's Red, White and Drunk All Over is one such book. Subtitled "A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass," this is more than the usual tasting glass-in-hand stagger from one vine-growing area of the world to another. It is a passionate, sensual voyage to the heart of wine and its world.

The first few chapters beguile you, however, into thinking it is the usual bus tour around the world's vineyards. She starts in Burgundy, possibly the area where the world's greatest wines are produced and then heads for California in chapter two before dropping in on Champagne in the third. So far, so normal. It's good stuff, too. Here she is describing the effects of wine: ‘I wouldn't be writing about wine if it weren't for the buzz. I love the way a glass of wine makes me feel - invigorated and animated, released from my natural shyness…My second glass tasted like a sigh at the end of a long day: a gathering in, and a letting go. I felt the fingers of alcoholic warmth relax the muscles at the back of my jaw and curl under my ears. The wine flushed warmth up into my cheeks, down through my shoulders, and across my thighs.' It's hard to know if you are blushing because of that latent allergy to Cabernet Sauvignon, or from the sensuous physicality of Ms MacLean's words.

Her journey gets really interesting in the later chapters of the book when she abandons the travelogue, fascinating though it is, and examines the struggles for the very soul of wine and wine-making. She examines the contretemps - something of a storm in a wine glass - between Robert Parker, the American wine critic whose judgements in his magazine, The Wine Advocate can make or break a wine or a vintage, and Jancis Robinson, doyenne of British wine writers. It is an argument about how wine should be measured, but it goes far deeper, making us ponder just what wine-making is - art or agriculture? En passant, MacLean shares a wonderful anecdote which will please all Partkerphobes. ‘After Parker called [Château Cheval Blanc's] wine a ‘disappointment, the manager invited him to visit the château and re-taste the wine. But when Parker entered the front door, the manager's dog, a fox terrier, attacked the critic - biting his leg hard enough to make it bleed, while the other man stood by and watched. Parker asked for a bandage; the manager instead handed him a copy of the Wine Advocate.'

MacLean moves from the philosophy of wine to the practicalities as the book proceeds. She talks to the people who make Riedel glasses, reputedly the best wine glasses in the world; she works in a wine store; she works as a wine waitress and she hosts a dinner party, all the while dispensing useful wine tips and insights. At the end, she has a fascinating and boozy dinner with the author, Jay McInerney, himself an avid collector and imbiber of fine wine. During the meal, while McInerney expounds about auctions and vintages, they polish off in, quick succession, a couple of flutes each of DeMeric Sous Bois NV Cuvee Champagne, a refreshing bottle of 2001 Condrieu and a bottle of classy red Burgundy. By the time they've folded their napkins and walked out into ‘the nudging shadows' of the New York night, you want to lick the page!

This is a charming and engaging journey through wine but, above all, it is intensely personal. Along the way, it resonates with the wonderful, larger-than-life characters that inhabit the world of wine; characters like Randall Grahm, the Californian wine-maker, polymath and President of Bonny Doon Vineyards, who is known as the Rhône Ranger because of his penchant for planting the vines of the Rhône Valley. Grahm is fanatical about wine and his vision of it as ‘a subtle expression of the soil from which it sprang.' As MacLean tells us, ‘He describes himself as a ‘champion of ugly-duckling grapes whose existence is not threatened by the dominant chardo-centric paradigm.' Recall those words as you pour yourself a glass of Tesco's Goes Well With Curry Dry White this weekend.

The Book Page

June 2007

By Eve Zibart

The essays in Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass almost come up to a full bottle. Natalie MacLean's pieces are quite interesting. Her profile of cult winemaker Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, for instance, is more informative and funnier than anything in the books by Graham Harding or Jay McInerney; the essay on Champagne neatly twins a history of that great wine with the satisfying fact that it's a species with famously matriarchal lines. And her explication of the civil war sparked in the wine industry by critics Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson is rounded and objective. MacLean is energetic, dogged and willing to embarrass herself for our benefit.

The Cape Breton Post

October 10, 2006

By Peter Rockwell

The Cape Breton Post published the same review as the Halifax Daily News.

The Capital Times

July 30, 2007

By Michael Muckian

Summertime, and the wines go down perhaps too easily. August, we find, is a good time to sit in the cooling shade of the grape arbor, a glass of chilled Albarino or Viognier in hand, and dig into those volumes from the wine writer's bookshelf that have been gathering dust while we've been busy all year with tasting and touring.

For an enticing narrative and some near-erotic wine tasting notes, try Canadian writer Natalie MacLean's "Red, White and Drunk All Over."

Subtitled "A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass," the book does not chronicle the author's descent into alcoholism (although she promises that for a future volume). Instead, MacLean, an accredited sommelier and multi-award-winning writer, shares her wine discoveries through visits with winemakers worldwide in a volume that's as much a travel book as it is a wine narrative.

Characters come alive in MacLean's volume as she traipses through vineyards and cellars, chronicling the winemakers' quirks as well as their craft. Her own background comes into play, allowing the techniques of winemaking to come through casually so as not to burden the more lively aspects of her narrative. There's also a visit with glassware manufacturer Georg Riedel, as well as interviews with other wine writers, including novelist Jay McInerney ("Bright Lights, Big City"), who made a brief foray into wine writing for House & Garden in the 1990s.

Despite her training, MacLean is a wine enthusiast first and foremost, and her passions show through. The author takes us down new paths and introduces us to wine industry luminaries to which we'd otherwise have no exposure.

Her industry knowledge provides a solid foundation, resulting in educational as well as entertaining chapters. And if descriptions like, "the aroma envelops me, a silk drapery of scent brushing my cheeks and settling gently around my shoulders," are what it takes to win four James Beard Journalism Awards and be named the World's best Drink Writer, then I am not one to quibble.

Despite its non-PC title, "Red, White and Drunk All Over," is a fun and informative read. It's also easily digested, especially as the twilight falls and you sip the last dregs from the glass.

The Coast

October 5, 2006


By Austen Gilliland

"There's a very good reason there aren't any orange juice critics out there," says Natalie MacLean with a laugh. "Wine appeals to people on several levels: intellectually; at a sensory level; and then there's the buzz. That very real, hedonistic pleasure that we get from drinking wine. You don't get that from OJ."

MacLean is calling from her hotel room in Calgary, her latest stop in a cross-country tour to promote her book Red, White, and Drunk All Over. It's not a revealing tell-all detailing the Nova Scotia-born writer's descent into wine-soaked alcoholism; rather, it follows the life cycle of wine, from the vine, through wineries and cellars, to red drips on a white linen tablecloth. In prose at once educational and highly personal, MacLean takes readers with her as she tastes wine in legendary French cellars, labours in a California vineyard, works in a San Francisco wine shop and spends an evening as an undercover sommelier in a fine-dining restaurant.

"I'm not an industry insider," she says, "but I wanted to gain an insider perspective for this book. I wanted to truly get the taste of the experience, to allow the readers to live vicariously through me. That way it's more fully sensory, which makes it more fun to learn."

The sensory aspect of MacLean's writing makes her stories come alive. The skills she has developed over eight years as a wine writer, publishing wine-related stories in dozens of magazines and developing a bi-weekly wine e-newsletter called Nat Decants, publications which have earned her several honours for excellence in food and drink writing, serve her equally well in the book. Mixed in with the lively prose, though, are very real, and realistic, answers to common-and uncommon-questions asked by her wine-drinking readership.

"Fifty-three thousand people from around the world subscribe to my newsletter," she says. "Because it's an email newsletter, and it's so easy to hit reply, I get responses from hundreds of people. It's like having a massive editorial board, there to keep me on my toes, keep me honest and keep me curious."

The voracious curiosity of her subscribers is what drove MacLean to write her book, and it seems to resonate with other readers as well. Shortly after its mid-September release, Red, White, and Drunk All Over went to number two on, and hit the bestseller list of the association of independent Canadian booksellers.

"I had no idea that it would take off like this," says MacLean. "After all, it's a wine book! But I think people are interested, they are able to identify with it and it's much easier to read than a fusty old wine encyclopedia."

The Halifax visit this weekend is a homecoming for MacLean, who grew up in Lower Sackville and whose prose often recalls happy childhood memories of the Maritimes.

"Well, taste and smell are directly linked to memory," she says, "So it's only natural that a pleasurable taste or aroma like wine would beget pleasurable memories. I had a great childhood in Nova Scotia, so that comes up quite often when I'm tasting wine."

As part of her visit, she'll celebrate Thanksgiving with her mum, who lives in Halifax. MacLean's husband will cook the turkey, and she's got the wine under control. She even has a few local suggestions.

"If you enjoy white wine, then I'd suggest a L'Acadie Blanc from Jost or Grand Pre, or perhaps a German reisling. You want something that's off-dry with a touch of sweetness, something that won't accentuate the dryness of the turkey. If you like red, try a fruity, vibrant pinot noir, which is a nice, light red that will work well with the cornucopia of side dishes on the table."

And leave the OJ in the fridge.

The Costco Connection

September-October 2006

This is a breezy and informative look at the fascinating places and personalities of the wine world. From the legendary vineyards of Burgundy and Champagne to a San Francisco wine store housed in a former auto shop, MacLean's journey will sweep up wine lovers in a narrative so infectious they might not realize how much they're learning along the way.

The Daily Report

April 4, 2007

By Guy Collins

The Daily Report published the same review as Bloomberg.

The Daily Sauce

September 19, 2006

What’s Red, White and Drunk All Over?

Why, that would be noted sommelier and food journalist Natalie MacLean's book, Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, which makes its American debut today. Unlike a lot of wine books that become sodden with esoteric oenology, MacLean's approach is decidedly breezy and, well, fun.

That's not to say that the book reads like an insipid white zin; her chapter on Riedel wine glasses is as readable as it is informative. Her description of a raging feud over a bottle of 2003 Chateau Pavie (chapter four) between two titans of wine criticism, American Robert Parker and Brit Jancis Robinson, encapsulates the entire "what is wine?" question by blending wine history, culture, taste, globalization and biography.

We also love how honest she is about her passion for wine: "Writing about wine has allowed me to extend my hedonism and give it a sharper, more satisfying edge. … But I have to confess, much as I'm drawn to its nuances, I wouldn't be writing about wine if it weren't for the buzz."

And for foodies like us, there's only one word for that: Cheers!

The Epoch Times

September 14, 2006

By Stephen Clare

Atlantic Canada has produced many fine persons of culture over time, particularly in the fields of music and literature. Though Maritimers do enjoy a strong reputation for their forays into the world of foods and spirits, it has only been in recent years that the area has become better known for its wines.

A large reason for that has been the work of Nova Scotia born Natalie MacLean.

Though now residing in Ottawa, the native of Baddeck speaks often of her roots and is a proud proponent of regional culture.

As Canada's most celebrated sommelier, MacLean candidly shares her insights into all things wine each week on television, radio, in print and via her website and bi-weekly email newsletters.

Though Maclean is first and foremost a wine writer, she is also a noted speaker and judge on the subject through her involvement with the National Capital Sommelier Guild, the Wine Writers Circle and several French wine societies. Her many offerings in recent years have won her several prestige industry awards, and in 2003 she was named the World's Best Drink Writer at the World Media Food Awards in Australia.

Her first book, Red, White and Drunk All Over, is a detailed and often amusing look into the booming global wine culture. MacLean says that writing the book was a way of initiating the curious into the wide world of wines.

“I take my readers behind the scenes of the international wine world, exploring its history, visiting its most evocative places and meeting its most charismatic personalities. For example, while tasting sensuous pinot noir in the ancient cellars of Burgundy, I discover the mysterious tenets of biodynamic viticulture from the tiny, ferocious Lalou Bize-Leroy, part-owner of France's acclaimed Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. I work in a couple of wine stores to figure out how people can find the right bottle when faced with thousands of them. And I wade into a famous feud between Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, two of the world's best-known wine critics to determine what those scores out of 100 really mean.”

She says that she was inspired to write the book as a way of piecing together her ideas into a cohesive work.

“Although I've been exploring my passion for wine in the articles I write for magazines and newspapers, I knew that writing a book would allow me to dig even deeper, meet more fascinating people, travel to more interesting places and even spend more time thinking about just what makes us so crazy about wine.”

MacLean admits that there are many good works on the subject, but wanted to produce something a little different from the common fare.

“A lot of wine books are either encyclopedias or how-to guides. Those are certainly helpful in their own right, but that's not what I wanted to do. I prefer to tell stories about wine-tales that I hope will both entertain my readers and also teach them a lot. My stories cover all the aspects from grape to glass: how wine is made, marketed, matched with food, consumed and cellared.

“I decided it would be best to roll up my sleeves and participate, rather than just observe from a distance. Instead of outlining the chemistry of fermentation science, for example, which might interest three or maybe four people, I worked with a marvelous and nutty winemaker in California, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards, during the harvest. I describe what it's like to be out in the middle of the vines, picking grapes under a blistering hot sun. Then back at the winery, I became one with my subject; essentially, a human grape: sticky, purple and completely crushed.

“Another time, to appreciate what good wine service is in a restaurant, I worked as an undercover sommelier for a night in the five-star French establishment. That mainly involved dripping very expensive red wine on white linen tablecloths and guessing-with conviction-at wine matches for haute cuisine. I felt this would make for far more interesting reading than just listing twenty things you need to remember when choosing from a wine list.”

MacLean hopes that the work will be both informative and educational to wine lovers of all ages and backgrounds.

“I hope that the book will appeal to several groups. One is beginners who are just starting to learn about wine and who will pick up a lot of tips from this book but won't find it intimidating. The other group includes those who are already knowledgeable about wine, but will enjoy reading all the inside stories about people in the international wine world.

“The book is also ideal for those who are part of a wine club, since it can give them new ideas for tasting themes and discussions. It's also good for members of book clubs who would enjoy a good glass of wine as they discuss this book and their favorite wines or most memorable bottles. In fact, I've included tips on how to set up an informal wine tasting with friends at home.

“My book will also be useful to those thinking of traveling to a wine region: they could either read it before going or while there. That's especially true for anyone visiting one of the famed wine regions I describe, such as California, Burgundy or Champagne. Those who prefer to be armchair tourists, with a good glass in hand, can journey vicariously with me.

“And finally, I think my book would make a great hostess gift for a dinner party or holiday gathering. Instead of agonizing over which bottle to bring when your host has probably already chosen the wines anyway, just bring the book.”

She trusts that the work will also teach readers about the practical aspects of wine.

“By the time readers finish the book, they will have gleaned knowledge about most of the important aspects. These include the way vines are grown; the importance of soil and climate; the influences of the winemaker's craft; the advances made possible by new technology; the process of harvesting grapes; the differences between various types of wine; the international business of marketing and selling wine; the issues of copyright and authenticity; and the power that wine critics wield over wine styles and prices.

“Other issues I cover in the book include why the Australians and the Champenois have been such successful marketers; why wine is perceived so differently from all other drinks; how to choose the best glassware for wine; how to taste and analyze wines; how to match wine with food during a multi-course dinner; how to decant and serve wine; how to choose wine from a restaurant list and recognize great wine service; how to age and cellar wine; and what makes a wine truly memorable.”

MacLean is excited about continuing to help others on the topic and says that there is always more to learn and enjoy about wines and wine culture.

“I always encourage people to taste as many wines as they can, take a wine course if you have the time and join my free e-newsletter at Every two weeks, I e-mail about 50,000 wine lovers my top wine picks, tips on matching wine with food, choosing from restaurant lists and cellaring wine. On my web site, I've also posted more than a thousand links to vintage charts, wine accessories, food-matching advice, wine region tour guides, producers and retailers, clubs and courses, industry jobs, and my favorite wine books and movies. The journey continues.”

The Feast

June 6, 2007

By Rosemary Carstens

Although Natalie MacLean is an accredited sommelier and has won numerous foodie-related awards, she's a down-to-earth woman with a real taste for the grapes. Sniff, swirl, and spit? That might be good enough for the wine snobs, but Natalie loves the entire sensuous experience of wonderful wine with equally wonderful food and friends.

She's adventurous-as when she goes undercover at a five-star French restaurant-and writes in an amusing and breezy style. If you'd like to know more about wine, or just have others think you know more about wine, this book will take you there. Natalie offers podcasts, recipes, wine and food pairings, and other vast resources on her website.

The Flint Journal

November 26, 2006

By Peg Melnik

The Flint Journal published the same review as the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

The Gadling

November 28, 2007

By Kelly Amabile

Until I spent a month in Spain, red wine was something I generally steered clear of. I stuck to pinot grigio and the occasional chardonnay, even though I often didn't enjoy them. But extended travel through Spain, and then Italy, and then Slovenia and Croatia too -- and I was hooked on both colors of the wine rainbow. I attribute my growing amateur love of wine to the experience of tasting while traveling -- besides meeting local folks, there seems no better way to discover a place than through the wine (and food) that defines it.

Natalie McLean's book details her own wine love affair and how traveling played a part: Red White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is a wonderful introduction to the world of wine, from a journalist and sommelier who started out simply as a curious fan. She writes with experience, but also with honest passion and an engaging interest in all aspects of the industry that is as addictive as the wines she samples.

McLean visits France to uncork Burgundy and celebrate Champagne, lingers in wine shops with global appeal in both New York and San Francisco, works as a sommelier in Canada and explores California's Sonoma Valley. I gathered countless tips and useful insight from her investigative travels, but what sticks with me most is a renewed appreciation for the role that location plays in wine production. The French word terroir refers to the characteristics of geography that make individual wines so unique -- it can be loosely translated as a "sense of place". As a traveler, I'm drawn to what this word stands for -- it entices me to set out on fantastic vineyard voyages of my own.

Is there another wine-soaked journey in Natalie McLean's future? The only disappointment I had with her book was that McLean's travels did not include visits to Mediterranean countries, or further afar, to places like South Africa, South America or Australia. I'll be sure to check in at her impressive wine website, Nat Decants, to see if she'll be embarking on future journeys. In the meantime, consider kicking back with a bottle of red and this truly enjoyable read -- it's a nice gift for all your wine-lovin' pals...or to quench your own thirst for global grape goodness.

The Georgia Straight

February 22, 2007

By Jurgen Gothe

A big tip of the cork to wine writer Natalie MacLean, whose terrific new book Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass got the big nod from the judges at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards just before Christmas, when it was selected as best wine literature book at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Since it appeared last year, the book has become a Canadian bestseller; even the stodgy old Globe and Mail picked it as one of the top books of 2006. MacLean journeys to some of the world's most interesting wine cellars and recounts her encounters with a lot of charismatic personalities.

MacLean is cool, keen, knowledgeable, and, above all, passionate about the subject. The anecdotes have more substance than many. The observations are insightful, and throughout it all she maintains her own voice and strongly held opinions. She also has way more fun with her subject than most wine-book authors, and that's the real treat in this collection.

Red, White, and Drunk All Over is a great rainy-night read-by the fire, with a glass of something deep, dark, and slightly sinful at your elbow.

The Gilroy Dispatch

May 25, 2007

By David Cox

MacLean opens with calling the book a wine-soaked journey from grape to glass. That is all I needed to pick it up for review. Good natured, MacLean shares her personal experiences with being a restaurant sommelier for a day, visits the ancient wine cellars in Champagne and helps with a grape harvest. This take is fun and personal, just what wine should be. I loved how she explained the evolution of Robert Parker (from the United States) and Jancis Robinson (from England) as the two most important wine critics of our time, how they came into these roles and why they are always disagreeing.

The Gloss Magazine

September 2007

By Mary Downey

Zesty, easy-going, thirst-inducing ... not a summer wine, as it happens, but perfect summer reading. Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass by Ottawa-based wine writer Natalie MacLean is a delightful book which cleverly buries nuggets of sensible advice amidst diverting anecdotes about some of the wine world's most fascinating characters. Also worth checking out is Natalie's free e-newsletter, with more than 80,000 subscribers in 36 countries:

The Hidden Side of a Leaf

November 11, 2008

By Dewey

For Weekly Geeks #11, I asked readers to give me some questions about a bunch of books I hadn't reviewed yet. I received a couple about Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.

Lizzie says: I heard about Red, White, and Drunk All Over on NPR these past two weeks. Terry Gross was interviewing the author, who sounded absolutely passionate about what she does for a living. Is her passion evident throughout the book?

Yes, I think it is. She obviously loves wine, loves writing about it, loves learning more about it, and loves learning about the people who make it. And she goes to great lengths to learn everything she can. My favorite chapter is called “Undercover Sommelier.” MacLean actually worked in a five-star restaurant as a sommelier as part of her research for this book.

As far as the interview you heard, I can find two NPR references to MacLean. There's an article about wine with vegetables. And I can find an interview with Liane Hansen, but not with Terry Gross.

Chris says: Red, White and Drunk… What wine goes best with pizza? And what is the best wine she's ever had?

I don't recall her mentioning any very favorite wine in the book, but you can find out a lot about what she thinks of various wines at her website, Nat Decants.

As far as pizza, well, if you ask MacLean, that depends on what kind of pizza. You can enter your favorite pizza into her wine and food matcher and find out.

If you ask me, though, I like usually pinot noir best with pizza. But last night I had sausage pizza with an Australian cab/shiraz blend, and I thought they went very well together.

The Indepedent Weekly

January 13, 2006

By Arturo Ciompi

If you find yourself thirsting for more wine information while awaiting my next missive, be sure to go online at

Natalie MacLean is a force field of fascinating words regarding food and wine. Her articles are fresh as a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and her witty, award-winning columns will give an enlightening, whimsical perspective from the distaff side of the wine glass.

Natalie's just completed her first book, Red, White, and Drunk All Over and a sheer love and embroiled fascination for the grape (in copious amounts) comes across emphatically. Natalie often likes to drink herself, if not under the table, than certainly next to the glass. She expresses a type of primal sensuousness towards wine that would never occur to me, causing the book's pages to fly by. I recommend it, and her, to you most highly!

The Inquiring Vine

July 28, 2008

By Doug Shaver

Last year Natalie MacLean's book, Red, White, and Drunk All Over came out in paperback. If you haven't seen the book, you may have visited her website or read her monthly newsletter, “Nat Decants.” She has received many well-deserved accolades for her writing.

Natalie's book is without a doubt a pleasure to read. She writes as someone with authority while also revealing her witty and light-hearted personality. She's funny at times, so much that one writer called her “laugh out loud funny,” a term that struck me as being geared for advertising; but, I assure you I was laughing a lot through this book. Her writing is also very vivid, even sensual at times.

Natalie starts the reader's journey with a peek at her first moving experience with wine at a restaurant she and her husband, Andrew, frequented early on in their relationship. The wine was a Brunello, a Tuscan delight that was so delicious that she was not merely impressed, but felt almost physically moved, feeling a flush of warmth running through her entire body. This wine encounter was so intense that it launched her lifelong on a journey of discovery with wine.

As the second part of the book's title hints, A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, we follow her along segments of this wine journey, and get to vicariously enjoy astounding wines in Burgundy, Champagne, and California, as well as catch a glimpse of the unique people who make those wines. We also learn that Natalie is very much a good sport and not afraid to get dirty. She immerses herself in the process of winemaking by working under the searing sun in the vineyards of central California, and following an Aussie vintner high and low through the cellars of Bonny Doon, in Santa Cruz, Ca.

When she's not tasting Burgundy wines with the introspective Aubert de Villaine and the fiery Lalou Bize-Leory, or learning about the wine world according to the philosophic Randall Grahm, Natalie tackles the sticky subject of wine scores, a vinous minefield indeed. The wine industry has few topics as controversial as Robert Parker and wine scores. Sharing that dubious honor might be James Laube and his crusade against cork, or the ever increasing level of alcohol of New World, blockbuster, powerhouse, hedonistic wines, which, I personally enjoy as equally as a bottle of 6% alc Moscato d'Asti. She compares and contrasts the approaches of Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker, and also discusses the effect of wine scores from the numerous wine writers and critics. We also read her take on the effect that is so endearingly referred to as the Parkerization of wine-the tailoring of wine in hopes of garnering the high scores.

Also along the wine journey we follow Natalie going under cover as a sommelier, learn the story behind Riedel, and the about the ins and outs of retail wine. Many readers will be able to relate to Natalie as she invites us into her home as she prepares for entertaining guests on Thanksgiving. We learn about all the considerations with selecting and serving wines to go with the vast array of flavors that can be involved when having friends and family over for dinner. In that chapter, as well as another dedicated to combing food and wine, she shares the secrets of food pairing.

At the heart of her guidelines of taking into consideration such things as tannins and acid in the wine, or the richness of a food, is her encouragement that wine drinkers truly do know more than they realize: the reader should trust his or her taste and not worry about the old axiom of red wine with red meat and white wine with poultry and fish. It's perfectly acceptable to stuff those old rules into the trash bin, except maybe for such things as tannic reds with salmon.

All in all, Red, White, and Drunk All Over is a very enjoyable read. As a wine blogger and writer I can certainly relate to her when she says writing about wine allows her to extend her hedonism and gives it a “sharper, more satisfying edge.” After having read her book, I bet she'd be a lot of fun to share a bottle of wine with. She is passionate about wine and loves talking with people who are equally passionate about wine as she is.

The Intelligencer

March 21, 2007

Book on wine a great read for all wine lovers

By Shari Darling

Red, White and Drunk All Over is a fabulous read for novice and veteran wine lovers.

Natalie takes the reader with her as she travels through Europe and North America, meeting grape growers and winemakers, wine critics, sellers and glassmakers.

This is a well-written piece, done in short-story format.
It is woven together with excellent story telling, humor, and interesting information about the wine world.

While Natalie sips with vintner Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti in Burgundy, I discover that many winemakers don't really understand their soils, subsoils, and microbial activity.

"This composition changes with every ten feet," de Villaine tells Natalie. "That's why the wine created from grapes grown right where we're standing is classified as only a humble village wine, while those grapes just above us produce grand cru wine."

Natalie goes on to explain that, "Cru refers to a vineyard. In England, it translates to 'growth.' A grand cru or 'great growth' designation in Burgundy is assigned to just thirty-three top-quality vineyards (about two per cent). Some 15 per cent are classified as the second best, premier cru."

I lived in Sonoma for two years and have visited the winery and tasted the wines of Seghesio Family Vineyards. Their zinfandel is delicious. In this book, Natalie takes me with her back to their winery as she interviews the founder's granddaughter named Camille Seghesio. The Seghesio family history is fascinating. I was moved and inspired by their commitment to harvesting the land and holding onto the business for generations. The juice of the grape certainly runs through this family's blood.

In the world of wine I meet many folks whose facade of sophistication can be as thick and crusty as dried out polenta. So, Natalie's authenticity about herself and her life is truly refreshing. She says, "Andrew (her husband) is the cook in the family. He actually enjoys cooking, whereas my forte is pulling corks. To be blunt: I don't cook, I don't know how to cook, and I'm not interested in learning how to cook. I come by this aversion honestly; my mother disliked kitchen work too and we ate many frozen dinners when I was a child..."

Red, White and Drunk All Over is one of the most original and interesting wine books I've ever read. If you're looking for a wine loving gift, or need a light, interesting read for a vacation, or you are interested in discovering more about the wine world, this book is worth buying and worth every penny.

The Jewish Chronicle

June 2008

By Pam Spence

Don't let the clever title fool you. This is a fascinating entirely readable account of the wide-flung world of wine. MacLean is an accredited sommelier and winner of numerous writing awards, including the James Beard Journalism Award and the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Awards.

Through her writing, we travel to France to meet the vinters and vitaculturists whose connection with the MacLean is no Euro-snob, however, as her goal is to make readers love the complex world of wine almost as much as she does. In her many and varied chapters, she enlightens and consistently entertains with consideration of topics like wine glasses, American wines, wine critics and toasts.

In the chapter titled “Partners at the Table,” she gives down home advice: “…drink what you like. Think of wine like clothing: most of us choose it based on comfort, not fashion.” And in her quest to make the drinking of good wine part of living a good life, she offers some unconventional pairings of food and wine (which white will you choose to complement that serving of popcorn or chips?)

This is a fantastic “hostess gift” that will serve as a compliment to the good taste of your weekend host and hostess - if you can bear to part with it!

The Kitsap Sun

September 5, 2007

By Nick Tomassi

I met award-winning writer Natalie MacLean some time ago, at one of the many wine events I attended. Her new book "Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-soaked Journey from Grape to Glass," is a must read. Visit her Web site,, a treasure of wine and food information.

She writes about wine in an understandable, straightforward, down-to-earth and often humorous manner that's a delight to read.

In her introduction, she explains that she and her future husband's first taste of wine was at a small Italian restaurant where they went to celebrate after graduating from college. Neither knew anything about wine at the time, and the owner opened a bottle of brunello for their dinner. She writes, "A pilot light had been ignited inside me; over time it would grow into the flames of full-blown passion."

She writes "... wine is as cerebral as it is sensual. In fact, drinking wine is a full-brain exercise. Eighty percent of wine's character is in its aroma; and smell is the only one of our senses that connects directly to the brain areas responsible for memory and emotion." A most important lesson to learn.

Early on she cautions the reader about many so-called wine experts evaluations, "Wine descriptions, however, often have a faint scent of condescension over a robust layer of barnyard by-product." Translation: ...!

MacLean takes us with her through various vineyards and wineries, starting in Burgundy, France where the grape is seen as an expression of the soil, weather and barrel. What the French call "terrior" (tear-wah). "The fruit doesn't get in the way of the place."

In California, she learns about the origins and history of Zinfandel. Zin is best consumed within five years of its vintage.

"After that, their fruit flavors soften."

She spends some time with Bonny Doon's highly respected winemaker Randall Graham as he talks about various subjects such as lees and tartaric acid. Graham comments about various wine critics, saying he has great respect for Kermit Lynch, wine importer and author of "Adventures on the Wine Route."

There's a chapter on the French region of Champagne: making the bubbly, identifying its grapes, aromas and flavors. A bottle of Champagne contains about 250 million bubbles. The more bubbles, the more aroma carries up to the surface of the wine glass, and the more flavor is released in the mouth. Notably, the Titanic was one of the few ships not to be christened with Champagne.

She touches on a wide range of interesting subjects, including why wines are priced the way they are; wine-cheese pairings; why to cultivate a relationship with reputable merchants; seductive wording on labels; the glass art - Riedel; home wine tasting and the five basic aspects to examine - look, smell, taste, texture and finish; decanting.

There are some insightful comments on the origins of the toast; pairing wine and food, including Champagne; wine faults; collecting and storing; futures and auctions and ullage, the amount of space between the wine and the cork.

The Morning Star

December 24, 2006

Best Books of 2006

By Maureen Kuch

An engaging and very accessible guide to the world of wine. MacLean takes on the dual role of drinking companion and advisor as we travel with her to individual vineyards and wineries in France and California.

Along the way we meet, and then quickly develop personal feelings for, the growers, the winemakers, the vines themselves, and the wines they produce.

The Oxford Eagle

January 12, 2007

By John Juergens

This new wine book with something of an iconoclastic title by award-winning author Natalie MacLean is exactly the kind of book I wish I had written. It is a lively and refreshing tour of all things related to wine, from the earth that nurtured the vines to the containers that deliver the “translation of the soil and the weather” to our senses. What makes this book unique among the many others out there is MacLean's straightforward, no-snobbery approach to the subject. She has an unjaded passion and a sincere sense of humility and awe for the entire process of wine production and its enjoyment, which come through in every chapter.

One of the other things that grabbed my attention on the front end of the book was her honest and unapologetic admission that she loves the sensuous nature of wine and how the buzz from the alcohol makes her feel invigorated and animated. This is the first wine book I recall where the writer states right up front that if it weren't for the effects of the alcohol she wouldn't even be writing about wine. For me, that gave her instant credibility for the rest of what she had to say.

MacLean has an easy conversational writing style, yet rich with sensuous and vivid descriptions. She masterfully weaves historical and moderately technical information into contemporary stories of her journeys through the world of wine in search of a deeper understanding of its mystique. This approach puts what could otherwise be dull facts into a living and relevant context that I have seen only in books such as those by Peter Mayle, author of A Year in Provence, French Lessons, and other stories that glory in the gastronomic joys of wine and food.

Key concepts are illustrated in chapters that cover topics such as the importance of terroir; the harvesting and production of wines; making Champagne; how wine is sold; the importance of glassware; pairing wine with food; how to conduct wine tastings; and how to buy and store wines. She also gives us a peek under the circus tent at wine in the context of the restaurant, and offers clever tips on how to navigate those treacherous waters from a sommelier's perspective. But one of my favorite chapters is her exposé of the ongoing and sometimes personally contentious trans-Atlantic debate on the evaluation and rating of wines by powerful writers such as Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson, and Hugh Johnson. Even the great ones have some stains on their shirts.

Every chapter is rich with useful and interesting information, but it never gets bogged down in esoteric detail. This is a great read for both novice and experienced wine drinkers.

The Stockton Record

December 13, 2006

By Cindy Arora

This thirtysomething wine writer offers a fun memoir for eonophiles. Natalie Maclean has created an entertaining read that will capture you with its cheery tone.

The Sudbury Star

March 21, 2007

Book on wine a great read for all wine lovers

By Shari Darling

The Sudbury Star published the same review as The Intelligencer.

The Suffolk Times

December 13, 2006

Louisa Thomas Hargrave

For a more articulate adventure in the wine trade, I recommend Natalie MacLean's Red, White, and Drunk All Over. The title is misleading; MacLean is a writer who loves wine, and doesn't hold back in her enjoyment of it, but she is by no means a dypsomaniac. Her book is a lovely, insightful journey through all aspects of wine production and connoisseurship, as she visits the world's leading producers, marketers and critics in her quest to understand wine. I agree with chef Danny Meyer's assessment of the book, that it's a "heart- and body-warming memoir."

The Sun Sentinel

December 6, 2006

By Bob Hosman

For those who want to give wine as a special gift, but are reluctant to choose one, opt for a wonderful new book by Natalie MacLean that will please neophytes and connoisseurs alike. Red, White, and Drunk All Over is written as a personal narrative that's informative and funny. Unlike so many esoteric wine books, this one's a page-turner.

The Sunday Paper

January 14, 2007

By Jason Tesauro and Phineas Mollod

Not everyone has the time (or the frequent flyer miles) to jet about the globe, sipping between the vine-friendly parallels of 30 and 50 degrees latitude. Then there's Natalie MacLean, the lauded wine writer whose first book, Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass was just named Best Wine Literature Book at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. The awards are considered the Oscars of the food and wine world and were created at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany 10 years ago to reward those who "cook and drink with words."

Unlike stuffy writers whose descriptions dwell mainly on practical terms, sterilizing the wine experience according to Brix and pH, Natalie evokes the sensory experience, weighing “how it makes you feel” and “how is it made” on equal footing. For those who think wine books are necessarily boring or technical, this one runs from sensual to witty to downright scholarly, peppered with excellent journalism and intimate quotations. For instance, on the 2003 Nuits-St-Georges, a gem in France's most complicated region: “The wine's suppleness feels as though unseen hands pull a velvet dress over my head and down over my breasts and hips, until the hem brushes my thighs.”

A thirst-quenching collection of 11 smooth essays, the first half of the book covers vino from terroir to tank, while the second half deals with the wine world once the bottles hit the market. We recently had a chance to speak to MacLean about her oeno adventures.

Sweet cover-looks like a young Vin de Pays swirling in a parabola around the wine glass. But what's between the covers?

One person described my book as A Year in Provence meets Kitchen Confidential and then goes Sideways. I take my readers behind-the-scenes of the international wine world, exploring its history, visiting its most evocative places and meeting its most charismatic personalities. For example, while tasting sensuous pinot noir in the ancient cellars of Burgundy, I discover the mysterious tenets of biodynamic viticulture from the tiny, ferocious Lalou Bize-Leroy, part-owner of France's acclaimed Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. I work in a couple of wine stores to figure out how people can find the right bottle when faced with thousands of them. And I wade into a famous feud between Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, two of the world's best-known wine critics to determine what those scores out of 100 really mean.

Why should oenophiles add this tome to their reference shelf?

A lot of wine books are either encyclopedias or how-to guides. Those are certainly helpful in their own right, but that's not what I wanted to do. I prefer to tell stories about wine-tales that I hope will both entertain my readers and also teach them a lot. My stories cover all the aspects from grape to glass: how wine is made, marketed, matched with food, consumed and cellared.

I like how you're the main character-our vinous heroine-in this 280-page adventure. Can you walk us through the writing experience?

I decided it would be best to roll up my sleeves and participate, rather than just observe from a distance. Instead of outlining the chemistry of fermentation science, for example, which might interest three or maybe four people, I worked with a marvelous and nutty winemaker in California, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards, during the harvest. I describe what it's like to be out in the middle of the vines, picking grapes under a blistering hot sun. Then back at the winery, I became one with my subject; essentially, a human grape: sticky, purple and completely crushed.

Another time, to appreciate what good wine service is in a restaurant, I worked as an undercover sommelier for a night in a five-star French establishment. That mainly involved dripping very expensive red wine on white linen tablecloths and guessing-with conviction-at wine matches for haute cuisine. I felt this would make for far more interesting reading than just listing 20 things you need to remember when choosing from a wine list.

The Telegram

December 28, 2006

By John Gushue

Wine expert Natalie MacLean takes the pomp and mystique out of the wine business, and delivers terrific advice on picking the best bottle.

The Toledo Blade

April 17, 2007

By Robert Kirkland

A very readable autobiography mixed with a whole range of winemaking information and a bit of slap-dash humor is Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass by Natalie MacLean.

The Tyee

December 1, 2006

By David Beers

It took a recent review in the New York Times to alert us to this Canadian wine writer. Then we learn that she counts Sideways author Rex Pickett among her fans. MacLean's book cuts through all the wine-world pretense with self-deprecating, funny writing that's engaging, thoughtful and full of information you might remember, as opposed to those wine guides that expect you to recall the difference between a 2005 proprieter's reserve and a 2004 winemaker's selection. In short, wine wonks won't be bored, while wine dorks won't feel patronized. Her wide-ranging website -- Nat Decants -- contains some solid wine recommendations. There's a blatant new-world bias, but she pays attention to and likes some B.C. wines worthy of our own attention.

The Virginian-Pilot

December 20, 2006

By Rebecca Burgess Jones

Included my book and a cover shot in a round-up of the best food and wine books of the year.

The Weekly Review Magazine

May 14, 2010

By Cathy Gowdie

Dinner guests are imminent and Canadian wine writer Natalie MacLean purges her coffee table. Out goes People magazine. In comes Anna Karenina. In Red, White and Drunk All Over, MacLean writes with verve and self-deprecating fun about everything from pre-dinner party tension to vintage champagne. I've learned a lot about wine from her and it didn't hurt a bit.

The Welland Tribune

March 21, 2007

Book on wine a great read for all wine lovers

By Shari Darling

The Welland Tribune published the same review as The Intelligencer.

The Wine Anorak

June 4, 2007

By Jamie Goode

I'd been looking forward to reading this book: Natalie MacLean is a Canadian writer who began her wine writing career in a similar way to me, through a personal website. This is her first book, and it's really good. Written in her trademark accessible, gently humorous and nicely self-deprecating style, the reader is immediately drawn into the text. And on the back of this highly readable prose, a lot of good information is smuggled in.

This isn't a book for the hardened geek, although I found there was enough meat here to keep my interest. Instead, it's pitched at the majority of people who have some interest in wine, but wouldn't count themselves as wine nuts. It's not deliberately an educational book, either, although I reckon most people would learn a good deal from this.

Natalie deals skillfully with the transitions between the subjects she covers. She begins in Burgundy, heads off to California and then sojourns in Champagne. Then she addresses the role of the wine critic, looks at the way wine is sold and deals with the issue of glassware. Then she takes a look at wine and food matching, goes undercover as a sommelier, and meets up with novelist Jay McInerney. The tone is breezy, the pace just right, and the reader is left wanting more. That's a good sign.

The Wine School of Philadelphia

November 12, 2007

By Beth Case

“Curiouser and curiouser!”

Like Lewis Carroll's Alice, Natalie MacLean has an insatiable curiosity. And lucky for us, Natalie's curiosity is for all things wine. In her excellent book Red, White, and Drunk All Over, she traverses the world in pursuit of one wine adventure after another.

There is much to learn about wine, and Natalie leaves few stones unturned. Her natural curiosity is an offshoot of an innate intelligence, and with great insight does she write about wine, all the while entertaining and educating her reader. With candid prose, and much charm and vigor - hers is an “intelligent hedonism” after all - Natalie takes us by the hand and swoops us down that rabbit hole with her.

She descends into the historically famous Romanee-Conti caves; questions the inimitable Robert Parker and legendary Jancis Robinson; dines with literary bad boy turned wine writer Jay McInerney; and, in a revised edition, meets the challenges of pairing food and wine.

And these are just a few of her many adventures.

In a wonderful moment in the first chapter, Natalie quotes Lalou Bize-Leroy - biodynamic advocate and proprietor of Domaine D'Auvenay and Domaine Leroy in Burgundy, France. Mme. Bize-Leroy says this about wine writers, “They should write about how they feel, what's going on inside them when they drink the wine. That would be much more helpful and interesting - and more truthful.”

And this exactly describes Natalie's warm and honest prose. She is the eager connoisseur who opens her self up to every grape, person, situation, and glass she comes across. This engaging and delightful book will be enjoyed by the seasoned enthusiasts as well as the wine novice.

To put it ever more simply - READ ME.

Truly Madly Wine

December 22, 2009

By Smita Kirk

I'd been looking forward to reading this book: Natalie MacLean is a Canadian writer who began her wine writing career in a similar way to me, through a personal website. This is her first book, and it's really good. Written in her trademark accessible, gently humorous and nicely self-deprecating style, the reader is immediately drawn into the text. And on the back of this highly readable prose, a lot of good information is smuggled in.

This isn't a book for the hardened geek, although I found there was enough meat here to keep my interest. Instead, it's pitched at the majority of people who have some interest in wine, but wouldn't count themselves as wine nuts. It's not deliberately an educational book, either, although I reckon most people would learn a good deal from this.

Natalie deals skillfully with the transitions between the subjects she covers. She begins in Burgundy, heads off to California and then sojourns in Champagne. Then she addresses the role of the wine critic, looks at the way wine is sold and deals with the issue of glassware. Then she takes a look at wine and food matching, goes undercover as a sommelier, and meets up with novelist Jay McInerney. The tone is breezy, the pace just right, and the reader is left wanting more. That's a good sign.

Two River Times

March 9, 2007

By Charles Rubinstein

Here is a book that is funny, engaging and informative without any of the stuffiness that's part and parcel of far too many wine books.

MacLean describes her visits to the vineyards of Burgundy, Seghesio's vineyard in California, picking grapes in Randall Grahm's vineyards, visiting the cellars of Champagne, commenting on the feud between two well-known wine critics, describing the operations of two wine stores and working in one, meeting with Georg Riedel, preparing a wine dinner, acting as a sommelier and conducting an interview with wine writer Jay McInerney.

The author is someone who clearly enjoys wine and her passion and enthusiasm is evident throughout the book. What makes this book special is that the information, and there is lots of it, is conveyed with humility, a sense of wonder and sometimes even a neophyte's trepidation.

You learn with her as she learns, and you benefit from her experience. She doesn't lay down rigid rules. For example, in the chapter about her dinner party she begins her discussion about decanting by confessing "I've developed my own slightly obsessive ritual for doing this." Read the book from cover to cover for pleasure and education.

Urbis Landscapes Magazine

August 2007

By Joelle Thomson

Give a girl an inch and she'll soon be writing column centrimetres that are far beyond her originally allocated space. When Natalie MacLean began writing about wine, she quickly learnt that both centrimetres and inches are extremely hard to come by for columnists, so she started her own website and e-newsletter devoted entirely to wine.

Born of her compulsion to communicate about wine in a totally desnobbed fashion, MacLean has found her niche online, winning several international writing prizes such as the North American James Beard journalism award and, now, the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards Best Wine Literature for this book.

It's not just the book's title that reeks of MacLean's honest, down-to-earth approach about the soils and fruit that make wine fascinating to anoraks and drinkers alike. In Red, White and Drunk All Over, she goes undercover as a sommelier, wine store assistant and wine expert. It's easy to sit at a computer and write about wine these days, she notes, because the internet is an ever present friend.

When out on the road, however, having to follow up one thought-provoking question with another is a more difficult matter. This straightforward approach makes the reader feel like they are on the road with MacLean as she travels and writes about wine. Among her vinous journeys is a tasting of Cristal at Champagne Roederer and talking about gangster rap and its attendant bling culture.

There's never a dull moment in this book, which you can buy online or subscribe to MacLean's free e-newsletter at

USA Travel Magazine

May 2008

By Szilvia Gogh

Natalie MacLean had me at “Hello.” Her unusual and picturesque writing style captivated me immediately. I feel exactly the same way about my relationship with wine as she described hers.

A subject all-too-often addressed in dry encyclopedias and consumer guides is given new life by MacLean, a participatory journalist who is willing to roll up her sleeves rather than sit back and sniff. She takes her readers along for the journey through her descriptive words.

MacLean chooses phrases in her book that are easily digestible by the lay person, yet sophisticated enough to satisfy the toughest wine critic.

She visited hundreds of cellars of Champagne in France to the sun-soaked vineyards of California to write “Red, White, and Drunk All Over.” She recalls her experiences with great enthusiasm.

Her passion for wine leaps off from cover to cover. MacLean goes undercover as a sommelier in a five-star restaurant, looks at the influence of powerful wine critics Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker, invites readers into her dining room for an informal wine tasting -are just a few of the subjects she covers in her amusing and informative book.

To fund her late-night vinous habits, Natalie MacLean holds down day jobs as a wine writer, speaker and judge. An accredited sommelier, she is a member of the National Capital Sommelier Guild, the Wine Writers Circle and several French wine societies with complicated and impressive names. Her unswerving goal in life is to intimidate those crusty wine stewards at fine restaurants with her staggering knowledge.

More than 87,000 wine lovers subscribe to her free e-newsletter at

Vancouver Sun

September 28, 2006

Wine writer appreciates the culture, not the purple prose

By Kate Zimmerman

Natalie MacLean's first glug of wine came out of a lowly box. Raised by unpretentious parents of Scottish extraction outside Halifax, she failed to be enchanted by the glorified grape juice handed to her at Easter.

"Not a good introduction," she says.

She didn't catch the bug until she and her future husband graduated from university and, on an evening out at a small Italian restaurant in Toronto, experienced a glass of velvety Italian Brunello.

You can hear all about this epiphany on her website (, where MacLean, now an internationally celebrated wine expert, reads from her new book, Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. Or you can buy the book, which received an endorsement from Rex Pickett, the guy who wrote the novel on which the hit movie Sideways was based.

It's not surprising that MacLean's attitude to wine would appeal to Pickett, who makes fun of wine snobs in his comic work. MacLean has little use for the obscure vernacular of the cork dork. She says she eschews the purple prose some professionals employ, mocking their use of adjectives like "rakish" and "muscular." "Is this critic talking about wine or Brad Pitt?" she asks. MacLean adds that the phrase "Naomi Campbell in latex," when used to describe a wine, doesn't tell her a whole lot -- she'd prefer something intelligible, like "big, red fruit."

Anyway, it's not the esoteric comparisons that appeal to the Ottawa-based writer, it's "what goes on around the glass." MacLean is intrigued by the culture a wine comes from, and how she can relate each bottle and what it represents to our everyday lives. She often gets asked to recommend a wine to go with a certain dish; giving that kind of down-to-earth advice makes plenty of sense to her.

"I mean, this sounds like a Hallmark card, but I do want more people to enjoy the pleasures of wine," says MacLean, who was in Vancouver recently on a book tour. In Red, White and Drunk All Over, she says, she focuses on telling stories. "I'm going after the entertainment angle..."

MacLean makes her work sound simple -- almost simplistic -- but in a scant eight years of wine writing, the magic inherent in her approach has helped win her prestigious awards too numerous to count. She was named World's Best Drink Writer in 2003-2004 at the World Food Media Awards in Australia. Her free newsletter, Nat Decants, was deemed one of the three best food and wine newsletters by New York's James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards in 2005; she has also received that group's MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. And MacLean has scooped up the Bert Greene Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals for excellence in food writing five times.

But enough about that; let's get back to the wine. There are all kinds of issues in that particular world, as anyone who has seen the 2004 film Mondovino can attest. One is the effort by some French winemakers to cater to the American taste for "big" wines; some complain that this contributes to the homogenization of wine and its transformation into a kind of fast food. Another contentious development is the "amping up" of alcohol content in wine, which can make it overpower the food it should complement, says MacLean. Her book brings attention to these debates without attempting to be the last word.

As you might expect, MacLean has a cellar in her own house --two, actually -- with upwards of 1,000 bottles awaiting their moments in the sun. Yet she has no aversion to uncorking the sort of relatively modest bottle you or I might go for, like Niagara's $13 Vineland Estates Semi-Dry Riesling (supposing we can get that here) or Australia's $20 Peter Lehmann Shiraz. (As for the lesser-knowns, she's got her eye on Argentinean Malbecs.)

She says she appreciates wine on three levels: the intellectual, since there's an encyclopedic array of information to accumulate and digest; the sensual, in which flavours, colours and mouthfeel reign; and the physical, where alcohol works its largely happy wonders.

"When I drink wine, I feel I have a whole body response to it," says an unapologetic MacLean, who polishes off a bottle a night over dinner with her husband. "I do enjoy the buzz."

Vancouver Sun (2)

December 6, 2006

Best Cookbooks of the Year

By Mia Stainsby

Good for both wine connoisseurs and beginner winers. MacLean informs with a breezy and captivating writing style. "There's everything here, old stories and new, an inquiring mind and bags of enthusiasm," big shot wine expert Hugh Johnson said of the book. McIntosh says she's been receiving very good feedback about the book.

Vancouver Sun (3)

September 15, 2007

Editor's Choice in Paperbacks

"I love the way a glass of wine makes me feel -- invigorated and animated, released from my natural shyness. After a couple of glasses, I'm mellow, soothed, contemplative," Natalie MacLean writes in this nice-quality (deckled-edged pages, jacket flaps) paperback edition of last year's bestseller.

Vancover Magazine

August 2007

By Christina Burridge

Natalie MacLean was born thirsty. But she also has a keen eye, a sense of humour and an engaging prose style. Passionate and entertaining, Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass takes us to the “secret cellar
in our minds where we collect our empty bottles filled with
memories.” Sit outside, put your feet up, pour a glass of rosé and enjoy both wine and words.

Vine Joy

December 3, 2008

By Alexa Bond

I just finished a fun wine book. Red, White & Drunk All Over, by Natalie MacLean. Natalie is what I hope to be. She's a wine writer with a well-read website, and a free monthly e-newsletter, Nat Decants. Check her out; she's funny, entertaining & knowledgeable. And tell her about me!

A quote from Entertainment Weekly, on the front cover says "MacLean's engaging and practical, and perfect for the novice." I don't really agree with that statement. First of all, I wouldn't call the book a guide, although there is a chapter on food & wine pairing which is very approachable, and helpful for novices.

The rest of the book, however, is for those interested in wine and wine people. It's a compilation of stories about McLean's experiences and conversations with people in all aspects of the wine world, from vintners to merchants to critics. I really enjoyed the book. She's informative without being dry and funny without being silly.

What I love most about her is her unabashed admission that she likes to catch a buzz drinking wine! That's a subject that most wine writers completely ignore. As if that has nothing to do with their reasons for drinking wine! It's a fun, fast read. I recommend it.


July 28, 2008

By Gary Moore

Red, White, and Drunk All Over is a print version of wine writer Natalie MacLean's jaunt through the wine world. Written as if the reader is riding shotgun through MacLean's own experiences, the book cruises through the famous places, characters, and occupations in the wine without missing a beat.

The appeal of this book is that much of it is shared while MacLean is actually doing that which she is writing about. The book leads off under the gray skies of Burgundy as she visits the uber-producer Domaine de La Romanée-Conti. Instead of a chapter on sommeliers, there's a chapter on her being a sommelier for a day (she has since been accredited). We wander through the female-dominated houses of Champagne and then cross the world to hang out with Randall Graham, founder of Bonny Doon Vineyards. For every opening bet of posh and class exhibited by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Bonny Doon raises with fun and eclectic style. And, yes, Parker sneaks in there too for a chapter (my favorite, actually).

An entertaining, breezy read that has a lot of substance, MacLean's easy to handle rose-on-the-patio style will appeal to pretty much everyone from seasoned wine jerk to up-and-coming enthusiasts.

Vitamin V

April 25th, 2008

By Marianne Wisenthal

It seems that among our social set, white wine drinkers are as rare as a Chanel warehouse sale. While everyone raves about the Chilean Shiraz, our fine bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon goes untouched.

If only they'd read Natalie MacLean's Red, White, and Drunk All Over. The book is an anecdotal look at the obsessive international wine-world, and MacLean's website has a handy tool that helps you pair food with wine. It turns out white goes with just about everything from potato chips to Osso Bucco.

Now pipe down, wine snob, and pass us a glass of Chardonnay.

Wayward Tendrils Quarterly

April 2007

The Wine Book Collector's Society

By Christopher Fielden

I reflected that this is not a book written for me, a geriatric raddled by fifty years experience in the wine trade. It is a book written by a woman, primarily for women, and from my external viewpoint I would say that she has done this very well.

Natalie MacLean is a very successful writer. From little more than a student's love for wine she has built herself to be Canada's most read wine writer with a highly rated website newsletter and a binful of awards, including the title of the World's Best Drink Writer. Hugh Johnson has summed the book up in a quotation on the back cover, "There's everything here: old stories and new, an inquiring mind and bags of enthusiasm."

It is the enthusiasm that is for me the primary attraction of the book. Natalie does not just write about liquor stores, she goes to work on the shop floor, she speaks to customers and to the staff. She becomes a sommelier in a top restaurant -- and gives me the answer to the question that has long concerned me: "Why do sommeliers pour wine with their left hand placed rigidly between their shoulder blades?" It is to help the sommelier "maintain a straight, clean line." Now I know.

In the book, we meet some of the world's most renowned wine producers, we hear of the rival styles of Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker, and we are given a host of useful tips about buying, serving, and appreciating wine. This is scarcely a book for the hardened wine-buff (though it does provide him or her with a stimulating read) but, for the novice, it is packed full of useful information.

Windsor Star

November 1, 2006

By Ted Whipp

The thing about our favourite wine writer Natalie MacLean is that she writes so easily and effortlessly, making a complex subject like wine so sensible, so fun.

She's informative, without dazzling us with it. She's curious and witty, too. She is not arrogant, patronizing and she doesn't condescend. So, after years of columns, essays, features and reviews about wine, she's written a book: Red, White and Drunk All Over, A Wine-soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.

MacLean says her website opened up a direct and meaningful connection with readers. They raised issues and questions, arousing her own curiosity still further.

"I wanted to find out why we accord wine such high status, more than any other drink we consume," she writes in her introduction.

"We rate it, we age it, and we often remember it years after we drink it. Why? This book is the result of my journeys through the wine world -- from vineyard to wine shop, from restaurant to dining room -- in search of the stories to help answer some of those questions."

She certainly travels everywhere, for example to a San Francisco wine shop and to New York where she works as a clerk in a premium wine store. MacLean also went undercover, working as a sommelier in a French restaurant.

MacLean publishes her free newsletter at which offers a treasure trove of information and resources for anyone who enjoys wine. An acclaimed writer with numerous awards, she lives with her husband and son outside of Ottawa.

Wine Access Magazine

October 2006

By Rick Nothrop

With wine appreciation going mainstream, author Natalie MacLean's new book about her journey from wine neophyte to accredited sommelier and award-winning wine writer is like a road map for your ripening palate. Red, White and Drunk All Over chronicles the Ottawa native's travels from Burgundy in late winter to sweltering summer in California, along the way probing everything from winemaking myths to the world's deepest restaurant wine lists.

MacLean blends plenty of detail and information for already knowledgeable oenophiles with a tone and approach that are simple enough for new wine enthusiasts to enjoy. Her excellent descriptions and dark humour (she compares the security around Burgundy's vineyards to “certain plots of Colombia”) are worth the read alone, especially for anyone who isn't already familiar with her work for various international food and travel magazines, or her Nat Decants e-newsletter.

Wine Access Magazine (2)

February 2008

By Tom Firth

Natalie MacLean writes with style. Fun, witty and charming, this book is a pleasure to read. Every page in Red, White and Drunk All Over is packed with beautiful imagery which gives the reader a real sense of where wine comes from.

A must-read for anyone who wants to know more about the connection between place and taste, or wants to better understand their own appreciation of wine. Perhaps not the best fit for the fact lover or serious wine student; but each page seamlessly integrates anecdotes, history and terroir, making this ideal for anyone who might need a reminder of why they love a good glass of wine.

Wine for Dragons

May 20, 2008

An interesting post here about the two books written by women wine authorities. In the left corner is Jancis Robinson's book "Tasting Pleasure - Confessions of a Wine Lover" and in the other corner is Natalie MacLean's book "Red, White and Drunk All Over."

The bottom line: I did not finish Jancis Robinson's book.

And here is why: both books were similar prima facie in that they both chronicle the wine experiences of these two ladies-in-wine as they prance around the world meeting winemakers and visiting vineyards.

However, Jancis's book was just like young bordeaux, it was terribly tannic and dry in the mouth, the prose was complicated and a torture to go through. It did not help that the fonts were small and nothing is explained in a simple way. The story on a page jumps for one point to another, uses a lot of name dropping and frequently incoherent. Perhaps it is like a good bordeaux that needs to be left on the shelf and for me to age, before I can appreciate the book. The peculiar thing is that in her web postings and her wine course DVD, she did not seem so long-windy to me.

On the other hand, Natalie MacLean's book is reminiscence of a straight fruity Aussie, light and refreshing especially in this hot weather we are getting in Singapore. The prose is forthright, big names are only used to inform on the location or wine. It is more personal and humorous as well, including her own experience as an undercover sommelier and how she spilled wine on the table in front of a guest. She also talks about her experience with Riedel and their passion in making glasses to unlock the unknown aspects of the wine. Though it still took me a few days to finish it after all, I was not dragged to the end by an iron chain.

So my recommendation is to buy Natalie MacLean's book to read, and buy Jancis's DVD to watch. And the twain shall never be happier.

Wine Harlots

January 26. 2010

She had me from her introduction

By Wine Harlot

Natalie MacLean is one of the best writers. Not wine writers, writers period. She's a storyteller of the highest caliber. You enjoy the adventures so much it surprises you that you've learned a lot about wine in the process. She writes about the emotions of wine drinking, and perfectly captures the transcendent nature of the glass. MacLean is one of us. She talks about her nervousness and insecurity in the beginning, and some of the funniest, most open and endearing writing you'll find anywhere. But she had me from her introduction:

“But I have to confess, much as I'm drawn to its nuances, I wouldn't be writing about wine if it weren't for the buzz. I love the way a glass of wine makes me feel - invigorated and animated, released from my natural shyness. After a couple of glasses, I'm mellow, soothed, contemplative. Perhaps because I trained as a dancer, I cannot forget the body. My mind has always been an extension of every muscle, every bone, every breath. It's only when I let myself down into my body that I can write about it.

I'm sure other wine writers feel the same way; and yet when I read about wine, I often get the odd impression that it has no alcohol in it. Perhaps this unnecessary seriousness about wine is a hangover from Prohibition; or maybe it's because we think that the body can't be part of anything intellectual.”

Travel with her to Burgundy to taste pinot noir at Romanée Conti, the holy-grail of wine. She wonders if she should spit or swallow the La Tâche. She profiles the famous women of Champagne. She pits Robert Parker vs. Jancis Robinson in the Pavie debate. She hangs out with Randall Grahm, and when she worked at Bonny Doon she was surprised that no one hasn't “published a book called The Total Winery Workout: Develop Harvest Abs, Grape Crushing Thighs, and Buns of Stainless Steel.” She talks with Lalou Bize-Leroy, Aubert de Villaine, Anne-Claude Leflaive, Frédéric Drouhin, Camille & Pete Seghesio. She discusses stemware with George Riedel, and goes native discussing zinfandel. She hangs out at San Francisco's The Jug Shop and visits Kermit Lynch. She talks turkey about food and wine pairing, and is a sommelier for a day. Nat covers the French Paradox, home wines tastings, how to spit, the backward whistle, the basics of decanting, and the obsession of wine collecting. She philosophizes with novelist Jay McInerney.

The writing is beautiful and evocative. She hits all the points and in a clear-headed manner, with comprehensible language and easy concepts. She captures all the wonder and embarrassment of being a nascent wine lover and does it with panache and style. MacLean's charming imagery makes me smile, it's almost like being there yourself - especially since the odds of Wine Harlots getting a tour of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is slim-to-none.

Wine Harlots couldn't have said it better, and I'm a little jealous that I didn't. This is the book I wish Wine Harlots had written. Bravo, Natalie!

Wine Log

March 9, 2008

By Ward Kadel

Natalie MacLean deserves all of the buzz that her first collection has garnered since its release in 2006. Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is a phenomenal work of wine writing that manages to touch on all aspects of wine from producer to consumer, with a freshness and vivacity that more than lives up to its reputation.

You might be familiar with Natalie MacLean through her highly rated and visited website, Nat Decants. You might have even read her article about Valentine's Day ideas here on Ms. MacLean has built up a very strong following of wine enthusiasts in her native Canada, as well as around the rest of the world.

Her writing has garnered her prestigious awards from numerous food and wine organizations including the James Beard Foundation, the Association of Food Journalists and the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Her website has a tremendous food and wine pairing tool and her free newsletter is read by tens of thousands of readers every month.

Ms. MacLean writes from the angle that wine and food are tactile, sensual experiences. As such, descriptions of both should reflect that sensuality, particularly when those experiences titillate the body like a fine, brooding Brunello or a viscous and dripping demi glace.

Descriptions such as “I close my eyes as the aroma envelops me, a silk drapery of scent brushing my cheeks and settling gently around my shoulders,” given while conveying the experience of tasting an elegantly aged Burgundy abound in the book where all of the senses are considered necessary to explain a wine.

The stories cover all aspects of the wine trade and you follow Ms. MacLean all over the world as she investigates wine-making, drinking and even wine marketing. Her ability to maintain dignity while still displaying an unusual amount of self-deprecation in her writing only adds to the story-telling. Ms. MacLean finishes her book with a great guidebook to food and wine pairings.

Red, White, and Drunk All Over is one of the most entertaining and riveting wine books I have ever read. The wine facts and knowledge are continuously purveyed in a manner that almost leaves you surprised at your new status as a fount of wine information by the end…you don't realize how much you've learned after all the fun you had following her adventures. I highly recommend this book for wine newbies and seasoned, purple-lipped winos.

Wine Lovers Page

December 21, 2006

By Dave McIntyre

From north of the border comes Natalie MacLean's Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. This book really should come in a paper wrapper. MacLean's "Nat Decants" Internet newsletter and copious magazine articles have monopolized the food journalism awards the past few years, but here in her first book she delves unapologetically into the sensuous (not "hedonist," that's a male word) side of wine. And some of the wines she describes are jaw-droppingly sensuous, even erotic. (I've bookmarked her description of Lalou Bize-Leroy's 2003 Nuits-St-Georges, which borders on soft porn.)

These two books are very different. Sbrocco offers us a practical and easy-to-use how-to guide for wine, while MacLean reminds us of why wine is so captivating in the first place. She doesn't water down her enthusiasm with intellectual doggerel about wine's place in culture, and as the title hints there is no pretense of moderation in her thirst or her prose. And while many wine writers seem to be saying, "Don't you wish you were me?" as they flaunt their access to famous winemakers and expensive wines, MacLean's tone is more like, "Come on, you don't want to miss this!" She doesn't just tell us of her exploits, she invites us along for the ride. It's almost as if we're sitting across the table as she experiences one vinogasm after another, and we listen in shocked amusement as Bize-Leroy, seemingly oblivious that she's hosting a wine writer, launches into a tirade about the stupidity of those who put wine into words. "And their descriptions!" she barks. "Filled with every silly berry on the planet!"

MacLean, though, recognizes the limitations of language in describing how wine tastes. "The only way to convey the intensity of flavors in my mouth would be to make the words on this page burst into flames," she says of one wine early in the book. It is abject surrender, but one that made me sit up straight. I immediately wanted to taste that wine more than any other.

In between winery visits, MacLean explores the vagaries of wine criticism (the Robert Parker vs. Jancis Robinson debate of a few years back), new trends in retailing, and wine's role at the old-fashioned dinner party. She shares her humiliation at the hands of an overbearing sommelier who insisted on serving her corked wine, and urges us not to be intimidated by restaurant markups and attitude. Some of these passages play the role of necessary plot exposition in between the steamy parts, but they're never boring. This is a wine lover who has taken the time and made the effort to explore everything wine has to offer, and is eager to share it.

Wine Sediments

May 25, 2007

By Kate Selner

There are definitely perks to being a part of The Well Fed Network, as I found out recently when I received a personal email from author Natalie MacLean asking me if I would be interested in receiving her free online newsletter, Nat Decants.

While I was scratching my head thinking “Who IS Natalie MacLean?” I followed the link to her website to check out what she was all about. It took me about four seconds and a few gulping hedonistic sighs to know that I wanted her newsletter, and about 70 minutes of endless clicking, reading, clicking and perusing on her site before I could tear myself away. It's an infinite resource for a staggering amount of information. Go see it. Now. Oh wait…read the rest of this first.

I discovered not only an extremely talented writer, but someone I think might be my new BFF. The first time I opened her thoroughly engaging book, I read through the introduction and then put it down. For days.

Natalie is an amazing writer; a talented wordsmith who is able to portray a wide range of feelings and passion with a well-chosen and often hilarious portrayal. In short, she is the type of writer that I only can dream about being, and her prose gave me pause as I reflected on just how far I needed to advance in my ability.

But back to her book. After reading and gritting my teeth with Lettie Teague as she brought a thoroughly whiny Peter Travers into the world of the oenophile with ‘Educating Peter' I wasn't certain what this particular book could tell me that might be new and refreshing. Whoa, was I wrong!

Not only is Natalie's book absolutely stuffed with information, she touches on the different aspects of the history of Wine in a simple and forthright manner that is at once enthralling, but left me sadly yearning for a bottomless bank account and a private jet. Her description of the long and fascinating chronology of France's Champagne and Burgundy regions is spell-binding; where winemakers of the noblest of grapes shrug off the celebrity status of their wines and reveal the day to day routines of their most prosaic lives.

She enjoys the company of California vintners and talks endlessly of the highs and lows of growing Zinfandel, the master of all wine disguises; details the ongoing cat fight between Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, who are both considered to be the most authoritative voices on wine that this century has ever seen; and gets the scoop on what it takes to be a successful retail wine store.

Along the way she rubs elbows with Austrian glass maker Georg Riedel and learns that yes indeed, the wine glass DOES make all the difference; dishes about the perfect wine and food pairings at a dinner she serves at her home (with her talented husband manning the stove), goes undercover as a sommelier, shares a meal and fabulous wine with Jay McInerney and gives countless helpful tips on hosting a wine tasting.

Throughout the whole book she peppers her commentary with self-deprecating humor, bad puns (but hysterically funny) and words of wisdom to any wine lover, no matter what level you are at on your grape journey.

As I read, and even re-read some of the pages, I was struck with how thoroughly likable Natalie became. I could picture her sitting across from me, sipping her wine as she lowered her voice to talk about a particularly embarrassing event she was wrought to go through, or throwing her hands in the air as a magnanimous gesture towards the kindly “Widow of Mousse” in Champagne France as she lovingly shared a coveted bottle of Cristal champagne with her.

I even felt a kindred spirit to my introvert state, when, in her introduction, Natalie talks about wine's impact on her senses; “…the way a glass of wine makes me feel- invigorated and animated, released from my natural shyness” and the reflection she poses after her dinner with McInerney where she states “…all of us who love alcoholic grape juice are on a parallel search for wine that tells us where it's from, who made it and even who we are in drinking it.”

Although I know in my own wine journey that knowledge is power, it all comes down to what I like to drink, and many times, Natalie reinforces this in her book. I will soak up any and all bits of information on wine that I can find, immersing myself in it's lees, rolling through its multitudes of sensual pleasures and swirling endless sips over my tongue in my quest to reach as far as possible before my time runs out. I garner an almost insane pleasure in finding an inexpensive and lovely bottle of wine, that makes me know to the end of my tastebuds that good wine does not have to break your budget. I have learned more about myself looking at my reflection in a glass of wine than I could have even imagined.

It's so nice to know that even professional wine writers can lose themselves in a lusty Viognier as I truly love to do; that when I feel my very pulse quicken the instant a warm and spicy Syrah hits my tongue, its so perfectly normal and when a glass of wine seems to make my eyes water, it isn't the inherent acidity that causes it, but some long forgotten spot of time, brought back unknowingly, with just one simple sip.

A book like this isn't just for entertainment, education or titillation, it's more like an all-encompassing dialogue from a trusted friend. For wine lovers in the know, it's like that great find you can't wait to share.

Winnipeg Free Press

November 22, 2006

By Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

If you're looking to spend less than $60 or want something a little more off-the-cuff, Natalie MacLean's Red, White, and Drunk All Over fits the bill. The woman behind shares her unique, down-to-earth perspective on the wine world, offering no-nonsense thoughts and opinions on the often confusing (and pretentious) wine world in an engaging style. MacLean is as skilled a storyteller as she is a wine drinker and thinker -- it's a fun, fascinating journey.

Wish Magazine

December 2006

Wine writer Natalie MacLean knows her grapes. Here, she exposes the pretensions and myths that leave us a bit daunted when the wine list arrives. She explains how to properly choose, taste and serve wine, and decodes the flowery adjectives wine reviewers use (what does leather taste like anyways?). Ordering the house red will never be the same.

MacLean's free e-mail newsletter, Nat Decants, is packed with tips, such as how to choose a bottle to impress your dinner-party host. Sign up at

Worcester Telegram

November 8, 2006

By Peg Melnik

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette published the same review as the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.


April 17, 2008

By Lauren Carter

Just like I could never understand how equations fit together back in Grade 10, all the facts and figures of wine labeling elude me. What does it all mean? There's the type of grape, the location and, among all that, the name of the winery (I think) and does any of it really matter?

For me, a trip to the wine store involves narrowing in on the bottles that are giving out extra AirMiles. I never ask the sales staff. I just grab a bottle and slink over to the cash register, eager to escape.

But wine has been appearing a bit more for me lately. First, an assignment to do a profile about a company building wine cellars and now, the arrival of a new release of Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass, a highly readable and compassionate book about the broad world of wine by award-winning Canadian wine writer Natalie MacLean.

Divided into an assortment of adventures from vineyard-hopping in France to a friendly and indulgent wine-soaked dinner with writer Jay McInerney (of Bright Lights, Big City fame and, more recently, Bacchus & Me), the book brought me out onto dusty earth, inside the crowded aisles of a neighbourhood wine store in San Francisco, to the tables of fancy restaurants (from a sommelier's perspective) and right inside the contentious debate of scoring wines.

Me, a veritable ‘ignoramous' (as my mother used to say), as far as talk of wine goes.

But this is the great thing about MacLean. She wants to blast the intimidation factor around choosing wine, pairing it and even tasting it right out of the water.

Near the end of the book, during the description of a warm dinner party with friends, she gives elaborate advice on pairing wines with food (without always going for the old school white-with-white-meat and red-with-red-meat) before gently putting it back in the court of the person who will actually be drinking the stuff. “First and foremost,” she writes,”drink what you like. Think of wine like clothing: most of us choose it based on comfort, not fashion. So pick wines you like to drink, not because they get high scores.”

By the time I read this invitation to trust my own tastes, I'm already armed with lots of new knowledge and the finish of a few hearty laughs.

Throughout the book, MacLean puts herself on display to cast a more human light on her profession. She even spins a hilarious story involving choking (and, um, coughing and spraying) during a professional wine tasting. This willingness to share some of her more embarrassing moments - and to work for a day in a wine store and serve snobby diners as an undercover sommelier - nicely flavours a book that dishes out enough information to turn a trip to the wine store into fun exploration rather than agony.

And there's even lots of advice on deciphering those elusive labels. During her day-long job in New York City's Discovery Wines, she gives a boat load.

Some words can simply be ignored, she writes. “A novice buyer might be … seduced by fancy label terms such as reserve, proprietor's reserve, vintner's blend, and cellar selection. While these may sound good, they don't necessarily mean anything at all in most New World regions. They're not regulated…”

And others can actually help: “…the more specific the place name, the better. When a region in narrowly defined, quality guidelines and laws are more stringent, so it's less likely that grapes from good and bad vineyards will be blended.”

These are just a few samples of a lush crop of practical wisdom and compelling narrative. For the rest, you'll just have to buy the book. I'm way too busy putting my new knowledge into action. Bottoms up!

Yakima Herald

December 5, 2006

By Paul Gregutt

The Yakima Herald published the same review as the The Seattle Times.

Yale University

December 9, 2009

By Domenic V. Cicchetti

I first learned of this book and its author from a Canadian wine enthusiast whom I met and with whom I exchanged oenologic interests on the train from Frankfurt to Trier for the first annual meeting of the AAWE. My interest piqued, I agreed to review the book for JWE.

The book can be classified as an autobiographic portrayal that highlights a series of unusual and often quite humorous experiences of a devoted oenophile.

The introduction, “The Making of a Wine Lover,” describes Natalie's sharing a glorious glass of Brunello with her later to be husband, a wine lover and talented cook, who has served as such for the many dinner parties he and Natalie have hosted over the years. This experience was followed by an introductory course on wine where she first learned that 80% of wine's essence resides in its aroma, and that the sense of smell is “the only one of our senses that connects directly to the brain areas responsible for memory and emotion.” It seems axiomatic that her wine career was already in progress.

Natalie is very critical of typical wine-tasting notes as in her phrase “…when I hear muscular, tight, or rakish, it's hard to tell whether the critic is talking about wine or Brad Pitt. Legendary concentration is what I need to figure out my income tax return, and perfectly integrated is how I'd describe my son's school. But opulent is indeed a legitimate wine descriptor- it often refers to the price.”

Such ill-defined terms make us appreciate the wide variation in tasting notes for wines with some cache`, such as the 2003 grand Cru Chateau Pavie, selling for about $150 a bottle. As MacLean notes: Robert Parker waxes eloquently with: “An off-the-chart effort … a wine of sublime richness, minerality, delineation and nobleness…provocative aromas of minerals, black and red fruits, balsamic vinegar, licorice, and smoke…a brilliant effort…along with Ausone and Petrus, is one of the three greatest offerings of the right bank in 2003”…Rating: 96-100%.

Jancis Robinson, in distinct contrast, describes the same wine as: “Completely unappetizing overripe aromas. Why? Porty sweet. Oh REALLY! Port is best from the Douro, not St. Emilion. Ridiculous wine more reminiscent of a late-harvest Zinfandel than a red Bordeaux with its unappetizing green notes”…Rating: 12 on a 10-20 point wine rating scale.

The highly regarded British Master of Wine critic Clive Coates adamantly refused to rate it, while noting acerbically: “Anyone who thinks this is a good wine needs a brain and palate transplant.”

In “The Good Earth” chapter Natalie makes clear her preference for wines that reflect terroir over their high alcohol, fruit-up-front competitors. Her stance here resonates with this writer's palate, as well.

“Harvesting Dreams” documents the fact that the Zinfandel varietal is native neither to Italy nor to California, but probably originated from the Croatian grape “crljenak kastelanski;” and offers, among many other fascinating oenologic facts that, even when yields are low, it nonetheless requires close to 1000 grapes to produce a single bottle of wine.

In later chapters, Natalie focuses upon how champagne is made; why Canada provides an ideal terroire for ice wines, some of which consistently win Gold and Silver medals in worldwide wine competitions; and the suggestion that women may have better wine palates than men, based upon the views of both medical specialists and many male vintners she has interviewed who indicate that their wives or girlfriends are far better wine tasters than are they.

It needs to be stressed that Natalie never relinquishes an opportunity to inject her sense of humor into almost any oenologic context, no matter how somber. Concerning the indelicate act of expectorating into a bucket designed for just that purpose, Natalie says, quite straightforwardly, “…after you have tasted some wine, you just suck in your cheeks, purse your lips into a slightly open O-shape, lean close to the bucket (or mug), and expel in a steady stream. It's considered bad form to dribble, spray, or have your wine ricochet back at you.”

In order to understand her gustatory appreciation of wine, in a much broader oenologic context, Natalie decided that she needed to perform other activities, such as: working as a vineyard laborer (one for whom having “toiled in the vineyard” now makes literal sense); and working a ten hour shift in a prestigious California wine shop-here she learns first-hand the serious economic problems that plague the small wine shop merchant. For example we learn that Costco, as of 2007, was the leading retailer of first-growth Bordeaux. Her deep sense of concern over this wrenching problem for the small wine retailer is evident. But as the evening approaches, with the cash registers building some much needed momentum, her humor returns. She observes “an amorous couple in their late twenties, a business man who seems jet-lagged, and a thin, heavily made-up woman whose affections seem to be negotiable.”

In order to appreciate the role of a waitperson with the daunting task of obtaining knowledge of thousands of wines, Natalie “apprentices” herself to the sommelier in an award winning Canadian restaurant in Quebec posing as an “undercover sommelier” in a chapter of that title; she also
conducts very informative and humor- laden wine interviews with: Randall Grahm, the imaginative and masterful wine maker of the famed California Bonny Doon Vineyards; in Santa Cruz, California; and with the famed novelist, Jay McInerney, author of Bacchus and Me and: A Hedonist in the Cellar.

In summary, this entertaining book receives high marks for its humorous and rather compleat account of the wine enterprise by one who has spent some time outside the realm of her laudable writing skills to obtain first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to produce, sell, and serve wine. I hope the readers enjoy her book as much as this reviewer.


December 2, 2008

By Jesse Porter

Making the jump from “curious wine drinker” to “reader of wine books” can be a scary transition. It's one thing to put back a bottle or two with some friends on a Friday night; it's another thing entirely to spend one's leisure time reading about tannins and terroir. We all want to edify ourselves, sure, but isn't wine supposed to be fun? (After all, the whole idea behind the concept of edutoxication is that wine is a subject best studied firsthand.)

Fortunately, Natalie MacLean's friendly tome is the kind of reading that will inspire both beginners and experts to only drink more enthusiastically. In her globe-trotting account of wine culture at home and abroad, MacLean explores important issues in the wine world through an engaging personal narrative: she tastes refined Burgundy in refined Burgundy, then picks grapes under the scorching Monterey sun; she plans an at-home tasting with her wine-noob friends, then goes “undercover” as a sommelier at a chic Quebec eatery.

Her tone is sly and playful, yet constantly informative - and, in a nod to the novice status of many of her readers, she approaches wine issues both simple and complex with that same blend of eagerness and trepidation that so many young people feel when they decide to try and learn a thing or two about what they're drinking.

Most impressive is the sneaky way that MacLean manages to interject crucial nuggets of wine knowledge into the prose. A retelling of preparations for a dinner party leads into a primer on decanting… a story of a pushy wine-shop cheapskate segues into a discourse on the world's best value regions… a recounting of her night spent as a sommelier includes an exposé of the murky world of restaurant markups. So effective is she in this technique that what might otherwise be tiresome lessons are ingested entirely unnoticed (sort of like when you wrap your dog's heartworm pill in a tasty glob of liverwurst).

In “Through a Glass Darkly” (which MacLean herself quotes once or twice in her book), Gopnik opined that “nowhere in wine writing would a Martian learn that the first reason people drink wine is to get drunk.” To her credit, though, MacLean makes frequent and impassioned nods to wine's primary purpose. Her stories are peppered with highly relatable accounts of having two or three glasses too many, and her prose embraces a similar Bacchanalian sensibility (she's the first wine writer I've ever seen open a discussion on “vertical” and “horizontal” tastings by clarifying that “this doesn't actually refer to which position you assume as the night wears on”).

As she discloses in the book's introduction: “much as I'm drawn to its nuances, I wouldn't be writing about wine if it weren't for the buzz.” Nor would the Winos be reading about it.