Interview with Natalie MacLean, Wine Writer

Natalie MacLean
Natalie MacLean

LoveToKnow Wine had the pleasure of interviewing Natalie MacLean, author of Red, White, and Drunk All Over, a book for both wine experts and beginners alike. MacLean offers her expertise and insight in this informative and entertaining book. Grab a glass of your favorite wine and learn more about the author, her website and her book.

About the Book

Could you tell our readers a little bit about your book, Red, White, and Drunk All Over?

I take my readers behind the scenes of the international wine world, exploring its history, visiting its most evocative places and meeting its most charismatic personalities. For example, while tasting sensuous pinot noir in the ancient cellars of Burgundy, I discover the mysterious tenets of biodynamic viticulture from the tiny, ferocious Lalou Bize-Leroy, part-owner of France's acclaimed Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. I work in a couple of wine stores to figure out how people can find the right bottle when faced with thousands of them. And I wade into a famous feud between Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, two of the world's best-known wine critics to determine what those scores out of 100 really mean.

Is your book best suited for beginners or can all levels of wine lovers gain something from it?

I hope that the book will appeal to two groups. One is beginners who are just starting to learn about wine and who will pick up a lot of tips from this book but won't find it intimidating. The other group includes those who are already knowledgeable about wine, but will enjoy reading all the inside stories about people in the international wine world. And if you're buying gifts for these people in your life, you can get a lot of your shopping done in one swoop.

The book is also ideal for those who are part of a wine club, since it can give them new ideas for tasting themes and discussions. It's also good for members of book clubs who would enjoy a good glass of wine as they discuss this book and their favorite wines or most memorable bottles. In fact, I've included tips on how to set up an informal wine tasting with friends at home.

My book will also be useful to those thinking of traveling to a wine region: they could either read it before going or while there. That's especially true for anyone visiting one of the famed wine regions I describe, such as California, Burgundy or Champagne. Those who prefer to be armchair tourists, with a good glass in hand, can journey vicariously with me.

And finally, I think my book would make a great hostess gift for a dinner party or holiday gathering. Instead of agonizing over which bottle to bring when your host has probably already chosen the wines anyway, why not bring this book? It's a great conversation piece that will make you look cultured but with a great sense of humor.

Why did you write this book?

Although I've been exploring my passion for wine in the articles I write for magazines and newspapers, I knew that writing a book would allow me to dig even deeper, meet more fascinating people, travel to more interesting places and even spend more time thinking about just what makes us so crazy about wine.

Food and Wine Pairing

What is the hardest food to pair with a wine? Any tricky ones?

Although I addressed general food-and-wine matching principles in the hard cover edition, I decided to focus on five foods that are toughest on wine: salads and vegetables, spicy dishes, take-out and frozen food, cheese and chocolate. So many readers have asked me about these particular pairing challenges that I thought it deserved its own chapter. As a determined hedonist, I won't admit that there's any food that can't be paired with some wine. The guidelines for pairing wine with difficult food are the same as those for traditional wine-friendly dishes: harmonize your flavor, texture and weight.

Beyond this, there are some specific tips to keep in mind with each of these groups. For example, my theory is that green food and green wine go together. So veggies dance with wines that have herbal, grassy aromas, such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, if there were an award for "Veggie Wine of the Century", it would go to this one. Not only does it have complementary aromas of asparagus and canned peas, but it also has bright citrus notes that complement most vegetables. You'll find the real meat of the discussion in the book.

Do the old rules of wine matching still apply (red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat)?

Those are good guidelines and starting points, but food and wine have both changed so much that the key is to experiment.

Natalie's Website

Screen shot of Food & Wine Matcher.

How did you develop your interactive food-and-wine matcher? Tell us about it. We particularly love the ability to click for recipes that have a complimentary ingredient from the search as well as find your wine reviews for the recommended wines.

Creating this tool also stems from the many questions about food and wine matching that I received from readers of my e-newsletter. I wanted to make the suggestions fast and simple, and to use the technology available to me.

What can people expect if they sign up for your free newsletter?

Every month, I e-mail more than 80,000 wine lovers my top wine picks, tips on matching wine with food, choosing from restaurant lists and cellaring wine. On my web site, I've also posted more than a thousand links to vintage charts, wine accessories, food-matching advice, wine region tour guides, producers and retailers, clubs and courses, industry jobs and my favorite wine books and movies.

What if a visitor can't find a particular food or wine in your matching database? Is there a way for people to contact you?

Sure! They should e-mail me via my web site and I'd be happy to suggest a match for them ... and then I'll add it to the matcher.

Favorite Wine

What is your favorite type of wine, and why?

The one someone else buys for me! Seriously, I do love Pinot Noir for its seductive aromas and flavors and the way it pairs with so many dishes. That's why chapter one is all about Pinot.

Interview with Natalie MacLean, Wine Writer