Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nat Decants...and pours

I just finished Natalie MacLean's book "Red, White and Drunk All Over". Ms. MacLean, a Canadian from Ottawa, has a web site full of useful information for beginner oenophiles. The book distills all of this knowledge and experience into 274 pages and its a good read. Much of the book feels familiar, but Natalie takes you on a tour of the wine world with a palpable excitement. I could feel myself talking with her on several occasions, and as she is a certified Sommelier, this is a great experience.

The feeling, in my early wine experience is that I felt I could talk to her seriously about the subject. She gallops (no other word to use here) from vineyard to vineyard, through grapes, styles and regions, writing, glassware, wine stores, and other wine fans. I really enjoyed the exposure to Seghesio winery as it happens be one of my favorite Zins. And then there is the controversy of Pavie; Robert Parker, Jr. and Jancis Robinson's feud about scoring and taste. There is no right and wrong here, only the luxury of influencing millions of wine enthusiasts. While there seemed to be a slight tilt toward Ms. Robinson's perspective the two sides of the argument seemed well represented. The whole question of scoring always comes up when Parker's name is mentioned, and it's mentioned frequently in this book, but there is no one on the planet that has done more to provide wine with an accessible route to picking up the evening vino. Walking into a wine store and seeing hundreds of bottles of Cabernet or Bordeaux, his scoring provides a immediate shortcut. Make no mistake, I've read that he wants you to discover your tastes and read the tasting notes, but because the system rang familiar with the American audience this 100 point scale became a quick hit. Mr. Parker's scoring provides many (maybe, too many) people with a short hand for discovering wine.

Ms. MacLean is a descriptive and enthusiastic writer with the pop and fizz of a soda. Almost like reading a description from the kid entering the candy store, finally; excited and fascinated all at once. She gives you good information on various subjects enticing you can dig into these areas, but you need to be careful not to miss them.

For the beginner this is a definite read, for those who are not quite beginners, it feels familiar, but definitely enjoyable. Experienced folk will like it because there will be a match in experience or because they can appreciate that Ms. MacLean has opened up new territory for a new class of wine drinkers. Enjoy this book like the first glass that opened your eyes to a world beyond a label.


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