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


There are definitely perks to being a part of WellFed, 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, NatDecants. She had received my name from this very site, Wine Sediments, and mentioned that her newsletter seemed right in my ballpark.

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. In theory, anyway. I made an offhand remark in an email reply to her that I would love to read her book and talk about it on Wine Sediments, and the next thing I know, a copy was sent to me personally from her publisher.

(image courtesy of Amazon Online Sellers)

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 that 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 are 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 likeable Natalie became. I could picture her sitting across from me, sipping her wine as she lowered her voice to talk about a particularly embarassing 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.” Even McInerney himself touched a part of me with his thoughts on the noble grape when he claims “I’ll always be an enthusiast. I don’t have the discipline to be methodical. That’s the problem with wine today; many people think you have to be an expert to enjoy 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. I

t’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.

Available from Amazon.co.uk for £9.74 and Amazon.com for $16.29

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Reader Comments

Sounds like a great book that’ll I’ll have to read asap!