By John ~ October 29th, 2010.
As you might imagine, the first thing that attracted me to this book, Red, White, and Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean, was its title. Then after perusing it at my local Barnes and Noble, the clincher for me was the tout on the inside back cover flap:
“A galloping read, which educates, entertains, and amuses…[Natalie] is the George Plimpton of wine writers: she shares insights from her ‘day in the life of’ a vineyard worker, a winemaker, a wine sales person, and a sommelier.” –Ann Noble, professor of viticulture at UC Davis and creator of the Wine Aroma wheel
That quote hooked me, so I bought the book and read it the same day. I thought it was great. I challenge you to try to read this book without smiling. I read this book almost four years ago before we started this blog. I hadn’t written a review because I thought that by now it would be out of print, but I just saw it in a bookstore recently so I thought a review would still be of value. If I didn’t think you expected more detail, I’d just say, “Go buy it!” and leave it at that.
As a teaser, I’ll tell you that Natalie shares in the book how she first became interested in wine, and then in becoming a wine writer, and then takes you on a very interesting journey as she travels through the Burgundy and Champagne regions of France, helps Randall Grahm with harvest in California, and then goes undercover as sommelier for a night in a five-star restaurant. It’s very educational yet also fun to read.
One of the most interesting chapters involves a classic disagreement over a single wine between two of the world’s most famous wine critics, Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson. Parker loved it; Robinson absolutely hated it. It illustrates clearly that wine ratings are subjective and not absolute. Natalie talks about how she didn’t score wines for the first five years she wrote about them but eventually responded because her readers wanted scores. Most people don’t want a detailed analysis of the wine; they just want someone they trust to tell them what’s good.
A quote in the book by New York Times critic Eric Asimov caught my attention and has influenced how we taste at Wine Peeps (i.e. We put great value on tastings we do with food, both our during-the-week family private tasting dinners and our monthly wine tasting dinners, as a validation of our samples and trade tastings scores).
It almost seems, Asimov mused, as if he and his colleagues “taste wine every way but the most natural way: slowly with friends or family at a meal, with plenty of time to savor—and swallow—a glass or two.”
There’s much more to this book, but I’ll let you discover it for yourself. I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book today.
Have you already read Red, White, and Drunk All Over? If so, please leave a comment and let us know what you thought of it.
Filed under: Wine Books