Reading is one of my favorite, totally self-contained escapes. Since wine became my "job" though, I've falled off the wagon in some ways.... I constantly seek more information and so I'm reading to learn, rather than for the sheer pleasure of it. But I realized the wine books I've been picking up of late are finding some middle ground; they are lighter on their feet, if you will, offering great information in a delightfully palatable package. It seems unfair to keep some of these finds to myself, so in the coming year, I hope to explore more of these texts and share the fruits of my efforts with you.
Natalie MacLean offers just one such diversion in her Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. If I knew MacLean in real life, I can only imagine she (like me) thinks she is the funniest person she knows - and is all the better for it. (I mean, come on. If you were stuck on a desert island and you only had yourself to entertain, you BETTER be the funniest person you know!) The best news is, MacLean is open about what she does and doesn't know about her subject. She is unabashed but refreshingly professional (read: respectful) as she explores wine. Her book takes you through the new vineyards of California, the history-entrenched vineyards of France, the bowels of a wine shop, the floor of a high-end restaurant and... beyond. She is nothing if not funny and thorough.
MacLean delivers something for everyone, at every stage in their wine knowledge/enthusiasm. I, for one, loved her chapters on French regions in particular - her tales of meeting some of Champagne's most important women, tromping through Burgundy.... I also enjoyed reading about her experiences trying retail for a day (and the price she paid for wearing fashionable shoes, rather than comfortable ones) and attempting life as a Sommelier for an evening.
I also appreciate how much perspective MacLean brings to the various places wine breathes (no pun intended on that one, but I'll keep it!). Case in point: while she's working in one San Francisco shop she learns how hard some shops work to meet their customers needs such that "[wine] comes alive for them". (p. 146) It's not just about business, but sharing something special with customers - both a new wine and just as important, the genuine interaction with the customer him/herself. Both MacLean's historic ruminations and her real life revelry with her subject underscore the reason so many people I know are drawn to wine: it is a lovely, warm quilt, representing and connecting myriad facets of life.
Naturally, there are a few segments where I was less enthralled and I'm still deciding whether her on-line wine/food matcher is a tool I can use with confidence. But MacLean is witty and honest. For a subject where neither are a given, I applaud her efforts and hope she continues to capture her musings.
What wine books have struck your fancy? Have you found others that expand your horizons - while entertaining you, too?