Until I spent a month in Spain, red wine was something I generally steered clear of. I stuck to pinot grigio and the occasional chardonnay, even though I often didn’t enjoy them. But extended travel through Spain, and then Italy, and then Slovenia and Croatia too — and I was hooked on both colors of the wine rainbow. I attribute my growing amateur love of wine to the experience of tasting while traveling — besides meeting local folks, there seems no better way to discover a place than through the wine (and food) that defines it.
Natalie McLean’s book details her own wine love affair and how traveling played a part: Red White and Drunk All Over – A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is a wonderful introduction to the world of wine, from a journalist and sommelier who started out simply as a curious fan. She writes with experience, but also with honest passion and an engaging interest in all aspects of the industry that is as addictive as the wines she samples. McLean visits France to uncork Burgundy and celebrate Champagne, lingers in wine shops with global appeal in both New York and San Francisco, works as a sommelier in Canada and explores California’s Sonoma Valley. I gathered countless tips and useful insight from her investigative travels, but what sticks with me most is a renewed appreciation for the role that location plays in wine production. The French word terroir refers to the characteristics of geography that make individual wines so unique — it can be loosely translated as a “sense of place”. As a traveler, I’m drawn to what this word stands for — it entices me to set out on fantastic vineyard voyages of my own.
Is there another wine-soaked journey in Natalie McLean’s future? The only disappointment I had with her book was that McLean’s travels did not include visits to Mediterranean countries, or further afar, to places like South Africa, South America or Australia. I’ll be sure to check in at her impressive wine website, Nat Decants, to see if she’ll be embarking on future journeys. In the meantime, consider kicking back with a bottle of red and this truly enjoyable read — it’s a nice gift for all your wine-lovin’ pals…or to quench your own thirst for global grape goodness.