To research her new book Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World's Best Bargain Wines, Natalie MacLean traveled to wineries in eight countries including Australia and Italy over a five-year period.
Each chapter in Unquenchable pairs a wine with a day of the week and a meal. While the book explains how the wines are produced and describes how they taste, MacLean goes a step further, finding fascination in "what goes on around the glass." The culture of the region's wine making and its characters round out each wine's story.
Funnily enough, the animals she encountered in her travels figure into these stories, with sheep, predatory hawks and magpies just part of the menagerie. Milk from one winemaker's goats make an accompanying cheese.
"In South Africa, me and a winemaker went shark diving," she says. "After that we went back to his winery and did wine and seafood pairings."
MacLean, raised around beer and whiskey drinkers, became interested in wine after marrying her husband, who liked to order a bottle with dinner. Her curiosity led her to taking classes about wine-making, and she eventually became a certified sommelier. That experience prompted MacLean to write her first book Red, White and Drunk All Over.
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"Wine engages us on all three levels -- intellectual, sensory and hedonistic," she says. "That's why so many people are fascinated by it."
MacLean emphasizes that cheaper but still great-tasting options are everywhere, including right here at home. "There's amazing wines in Texas and reasonably priced," she says. "We should explore within our backyards as well."