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Nice work if you can get it

Canadian author travelled the world seeking out bargain wines for her new book

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Natalie MacLean has made a name for herself as one of Canada's best-known wine writers. Her first book, Red, White and Drunk All Over, was a decidedly no-nonsense affair that took readers around the world in a lighthearted attempt to shed light on the world of wine.

Her new book, Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World's Best Bargain Wines, continues the journey, albeit with a focus on getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to buying wine. MacLean is on a promotional book tour right now, and will hit Winnipeg on Tuesday as part of her trek across Western Canada. 

MacLean was to have hosted Prairie Ink Café's regular Wine and Dine event at McNally Robinson Grant Park on Tuesday next week, but the event has been cancelled.

Now, about the book itself. Unquenchable is split into eight chapters, each representing a day of the week (Sunday's in there twice). Each day/chapter sees the author in a different country, tasting wine with area winemakers in a variety of settings. (Cleverly, Tuesday's Wine and Dine courses are paired with wines from seven of the eight regions covered in the book.) From the Barossa Valley and the Mosel Valley to the Niagara Peninsula and beyond, MacLean notes that her journey took her to "eight countries, 312 wineries and 15,267 wines," and her ability to weave a story around each of these visits is impressive.

Each chapter closes with a useful list of tips, winery websites, best-value wines and producers, meals enjoyed in the region (recipes are available on Maclean's website,, suggested pairings, resources and more. Suggestions aren't vintage-specific, but rather highlight consistent values from the regions she covers.

As someone who has, ahem, endured whirlwind trips to wine-producing regions, it's tempting (advisable, even) to roll into bed and crash after a day of tasting wines, talking to winemakers, touring wineries and eating fancy, calorie-rich food (with wine a-plenty, of course). Somehow MacLean was able to set aside some time to collect her thoughts about each stop while each was still fresh. I don't think I'd be able to do it -- more power to her.

Like Red, White, and Drunk All Over, MacLean's new book brings valuable information stripped away of the pretense and/or technical minutiae of more encyclopedic wine-related volumes. Instead of dry, data-heavy writing, MacLean infuses the book with luscious prose that walks a fine line between poetry and cliché/Harlequin romance. In many cases it works well; like some of the best-value wines she describes, her writing brings a lushness that's well-balanced and structured. In other instances her oenological poetry treads fearfully close to the literary equivalent of an overripe, overoaked Aussie Shiraz.

Unquenchable is certainly a book worth picking up. For more info on MacLean see

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 12, 2011 E4


Updated on Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 11:33 AM CST: formatys text, adds fact box, adds link to blog

2:17 PM: Amends text to reflect book event cancellation

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