Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Unquenchable Book Review

In Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest For the World’s Best Bargain Wines (NY, NY: Penguin Group, 2011), author Natalie MacLean writes in a mostly conversational tone ~ in her words: “I’m neurotically personal, prone to tangential digressions and Bridget Jones-like overreactions.” That’s not to say she can’t use winespeak with the best of them. Don’t believe me? How about “Saturated fruit flavors flood my mouth and pool around my taste buds before slipping down to deeper pleasure centers.” Love it.

As Natalie wrote in her first book, red, white, AND drunk all over (New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA, 2006), "[Wine]'s connected to so many facets of life: agriculture, science, commerce, culture, sociology, history, religion, art" (quote from Chuck Hayward, wine retailer). I think that is why I enjoy wine so much, not just what's in the bottle, but what leads up to that sip as well. I get the feeling that MacLean has a similar attraction, that it is much more than just tasting great wines.

MacLean spent several years travelling the world, tasting wine in situ, looking for the world’s best cheap wines. Her goal? One terrific bottle for each night of the week, plus one extra for Sunday lunch. Each chapter is followed by her “Field Notes from a Wine Cheapskate,” which include some insider tips, wineries visited, best value wines, suggested food and wine pairings, and more.

In truth, the title of the appendices is the one thing I didn’t like about the book. To me the word cheapskate has too many negative connotations, too much baggage. I guess I just don’t necessarily equate value with cheapness. But I digress.

Eight chapters take us from Sunday to Sunday, with visits to Australia, Germany’s Mosel Valley, Ontario’s Niagara, South Africa, Sicily, Argentina, Portugal, and Provence. The wines and grapes range from rosé to port to nerello cappuccino and so much more in between. Each chapter introduces one or more winegrowers, a brief history of the region, and often sumptuous meals.

Throughout the lighter humorous and entertaining writing are self-reflective moments, dealing with Natalie’s chosen profession of wine writer, her ancestor alcoholics, and the benefits of being uncomfortable. Really a good read – recommended.

About the Author: 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. Funny, brainy and unapologetically tipsy, her goal in life is to intimidate those crusty wine stewards at fine restaurants with her staggering knowledge.

Find more at Natalie’s blog, Nat Decants on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for review purposes, courtesy of Natalie MacLean and the Penguin Group. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the book a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from Natalie's website.

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