Natalie MacLean. Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines. New York: Perigree, 2011.
After reading UNQUENCHABLE, I can state three things with confidence about Natalie MacLean: 1) She likes to drink wine 2)She knows a great deal about it 3) She wants to share some of her experiences and perspectives with you to help you find bargain wines that don’t taste like they came out of a box.
That makes this book an enjoyable read. It’s joyfully subjective, with MacLean sharing her insights into both her visits to several wine-making regions and the taste of the wines. Her mission, simply put, “is to demystify wine price in relation to quality,” in other words, helping wine shopper pick out $15 wines that taste as good as $30 or $50 ones.
MacLean’s approach is best summed up by the label on a Renard Rose bottle that she shares; “The nose suggests smoky strawberries, raspberry cigars and blah, blah, blah…Isn’t wine indescribably fun? Just enjoy it!”
So we, the readers, get to tag along as MacLean enjoys visiting several locales that make good, inexpensive wines, including Australia, South Africa, Argentina, and even Canada. In each stop, she shares the history of the wine-making region and notes which varietal its best known for. She also visits several wineries, relating the stories of the winemakers, which are often interesting in their own right. Winemaking is a field that draws many colorful personalities, and MacLean has a knack for rendering them vividly.
This is a personal book, with MacLean proudly abandoning any claim at objectivity and instead sharing her reactions, which makes sense, since much of the charm of wine is intangible. By unabashedly giving us her own personal take on wine, MacLean does us a great service; we’re free to disagree with her, but at least we know where she’s coming from.
All in all, I learned a great deal from UNQUENCHABLE and had a good time doing it. Outside of pouring the wine for you, there’s not too much more you can ask from a wine guide than that.