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Unquenchable: A tipsy quest for the world's best bargain wines (October 20, 2011)

book review
by Dean Tudor, www.deantudor.com

Unquenchable: A tipsy quest for the world's best bargain wines (Doubleday Canada, 2011, 357 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-66848-4, $29.95 CAD hard covers) is by the ubiquitous Natalie MacLean, author of the award-winning bestseller Red, White and Drunk All Over and a colleague of mine within the Wine Writers' Circle of Canada. There's some log rolling from Kermit Lynch and Francis Mayes.

It's an honest book, seeking honest answers to the best wines in the world at bargain prices. She's travelled around Niagara, Germany, Australia, Italy, South Africa, Argentina, Portugal and France (eight regions in all) in search of values. In each, she visited 30 to 40 wineries, and tasted a range of wine in all of them. But as she's said countless times over, the best wine depends on what you are eating, with whom, and what the occasion is.

A lot of the book is tied into her website. You can go to www.nataliemaclean.com and do wine-picking with her top-value choices (which include tasting notes, scores, bottle shots, and food matches). There are also website addresses, contact information, pictures, recipes for the dishes she recommends, landscape photos, discussion points for book clubs, and the like. This is good integration with the convergence of static print and electronic websites.

So: to cheat a bit, I'll list her recommendations for Australia – choose from Wolf Blass, Penfolds and Henschke. From Argentina – choose from Catena, Norton, and Zuccardi. You cannot go wrong with any of their wines priced around $15 and up.

All of her wine writing is sensible and conversational, so I'm still not sure why the quest has to be "tipsy" or why the illustration on the dust jacket has to be as it is.

Audience and level of use: Wine drinkers and wine readers, those looking for bargain wines.

Some interesting or unusual facts: "Most people believe that they can taste the difference between a wine priced at $5 and one at $50... It gets trickier when the difference is between $15 and $30... Rich, layered experiences hold our attention."

The downside to this book: Call me old-fashioned, but as I said in my review of Red, White and Drunk All Over, I just don't like the idea of linking wine writing with overindulging. It makes light of a serious subject, for we wine writers all expectorate when tasting. But then, those feelings are just me. I may be wrong.

The upside to this book: I like the lists at the end of each chapter, the field notes. Hey, and I just bought some clothes at Guy's Frenchys in August!

Quality/Price Rating: 90.

 

 

 

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