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Book reviews

Red, White, and Drunk All Over, Natalie MacLean, Anchor Canada, 2007, 304 pages

  • Nathalie Spielmann

Corps de l’article

“I love the way a glass of wine makes me feel – invigorated and animated, released from my natural shyness” MacLean 7. This introductory sentence to Red, White, and Drunk All Over clearly sets the tone for how author Natalie MacLean perceives and approaches wine.

Rather than presenting another reference tome on wine, MacLean, a Canadian sommelier, refreshingly offers no uppity commentary or detailed accounts of exclusive interactions with absurdly rare vintages. Rather, Red, White, and Drunk All Over engages the reader with a journey of discovery. MacLean strips wine of its imposed pretentiousness, revealing its basic tenets, while also offering a personal approach to the subject in a quasi-autobiographical format. MacLean details her own learning process as, for example, when she decides to test if the shape of a glass really influences the taste of wine. (She discovers that it does: different sizes affect her drinking experience.)

MacLean recounts the different tastes and mis-spits along the way. Her story may be especially appealing for those readers who wish to embark on such a journey themselves. In this intensely personal book, she shares her experiences as a salesclerk in a wine store, a sommelier in a restaurant for a night, and host of a tasting group, as well as her attempt to “saber” champagne (using the samurai-style action of lopping open a bottle with a sharp knife). With all the misadventures, though, one wonders how the author managed to garner her sommelier title and gain all the detailed knowledge about wine regions, forms of production, and social, historical, and cultural contexts for wine connoisseurship. What are the claims to authority?

At the end of Red, White, and Drunk All Over, MacLean offers an array of pairings, outlined under down-to-earth headings such as “Burger Wines.” Unfortunately, she shies away from detailing why, for example, a Marsanne works better than a Gewürztraminer with spicy dishes, or why such a classic pairing as a Sauterne with foie gras works magic. While those beginning their oenological journey will find this chapter helpful, those with an intermediate understanding of wines may find themselves frustrated by the predictability of some of the pairings.

The author is Canadian and proud of it, but unfortunately this does not translate into the book’s content. Nevertheless, as an initial foray, this book offers an engaging and accessible introduction to wine. Perhaps MacLean will consider turning to her roots for her next project in order to divulge to the world not just the variety of Canadian products, but also the diversity of Canadian consumers and their tastes and how this shapes the wine industry.

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