At last, a wine writer who admits flat out she likes the alcohol part about as much as the “nose” and all the other esoteric nuances.
Award-winning journalist MacLean aims to welcome fellow enthusiasts, present and future, by sharing formative lessons and experiences in her own development. Often flirting with what amounts to iconoclasm in what is—often for marketing purposes—an over-ritualized, elitist milieu, the author suggests that expert tasters can lose a potentially broader audience with abstract imagery and flavor allusions. (One example: “Think of Naomi Campbell in latex . . .”) Why not instead, she suggests, talk more about the total experience of imbibing a fine wine in sensuous, personal terms, which she does without hesitation, more than once mentioning her thighs. MacLean also discusses the market-shaping power of wine scribes like Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, a British woman often at odds with Parker’s opinions and particularly his point system for scoring wines. Robinson publicly tastes wines “blind” (labels masked); Parker has them sent to his home, MacLean notes, but doesn’t push it and goes on to regularly reference Parker’s endorsements of wines she also likes. On some controversial points, she takes a clear stand: The kind of glass you drink from does make a significant difference, for instance, and she always decants her reds before serving. She soldiers through her apprenticeship in some of the world’s most heralded wine cellars, also doing duty as a retail clerk in a wine emporium of repute; the resulting knowledge is artfully imparted, if not particularly organized.
Refreshingly accessible and good-humored entrée into the world of fine wine.