I read French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano almost four years ago, and it changed my life. And I’m not just saying that – it really did. 20 pounds lighter and a couple years later, I read Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Again, it opened my eyes to a whole new way of experiencing and thinking about food. I argue that if I had read them in reverse order, Omnivore’s Dilemma would have meant very little to me; I would not have experienced the same level of connection, and there certainly would not have been the lightning-bolt moment of clarity and epiphany that I felt reading these two books the way I did.
Well, this is what happened when I read Red, White, and Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean*. Natalie MacLean is my Mireille Guiliano of wine. Unfortunately, I read this after I read The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization (my review, which I just re-read and didn't realize I made a Michael Pollan comparison there as well) by Alice Feiring. Alice Feiring is the Michael Pollan of wine (though not on quite the same scholarly level as Pollan). I read these books in the complete wrong order. Now that I have finished Red, White, and Drunk All Over (I love typing that title), I should go back and read
I’m going to make a bold statement: Red, White, and Drunk All Over is a universally accessible book about wine. Anyone can read it and they’ll understand what the heck MacLean is talking about. You’ll walk away with a better of understanding of wine merchants, of the
MacLean has an incredibly accessible writing style: she is Everywoman. She writes in a way that makes you say, “I want to go winetasting with this woman! She’d be a blast!” She doesn’t come off as a wine snob in any way, and she’s the only wine writer I’ve come across that has basically said, “Yeah, I like to drink, to actually swallow wine, and feel that warmth from a second (or third) glass.”** Thank god someone finally said it! Additionally, I appreciated that while MacLean is teaching you something, she is also rolling her eyes at the pretensions and established hoo-haw of the wine world. For instance, she attends a demonstration by Georg Reidel, of the Reidel Glass company. While she is in the midst of arguing that the wine glass you use really does matter, she is also poking good-natured fun at Reidel for referring to the wine glass as his “precision tool” and describing “the velocity of the wine entering the mouth.” Again, though, while you’re sniggering and giggling with MacLean (and ogling Reidel’s handsome good looks), you’re also learning about what it is that makes wine glasses important.
I don’t want to make you think you won’t learn about wine itself while reading this – don’t worry, you will. I highlighted the heck out of my copy. I liked this passage: “The color tells us how old the wine is. Young whites are usually green at the edges and become a deeper yellow or gold with time; reds are usually purple or ruby in youth and turn to garnet or brick in age.” That’s knowledge you can use tonight at dinner: pour yourself that glass of cabernet franc and take a look at the color. MacLean also says it’s not beneficial to hold your glass up to the light (guilty!); better to hold it up against a white tablecloth or white piece of paper to gauge the color correctly. See, this is all useful, practical information you can use now. However, as I mentioned before, this book does make you long for more info, which is in no way a fault of the book; in fact, I consider this a compliment. For instance, “deeper yellow or gold with time”…well, my glass of chardonnay already exhibits those colors (whereas my sauvignon blanc is the palest gold). But my chardonnay is only a 2005 bottle. So what’s up? This is where you’ll really want to delve into further reading and research, which any good introductory book on a subject will make you want to do.
On a side note, MacLean folds in some amusing supplementary information. For instance, she says that “corks flying out of champagne bottles have been clocked at fifty miles an hour.” Additionally, she has a lovely bit about the history and lost art of the toast. She shares that in ancient
Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is recommended highly for the novice wine drinker. A thoroughly enjoyable, amusing read!
* Check out her website - it's professional and informative
** My words, not MacLean’s.