Two of Europe’s most popular wine regions – Champagne and Burgundy – have been painted in a new light with Natalie Maclean’s entertaining travelogue, Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. She laments the state of most wine-orientated literature: “When I read about wine, I often get the odd impression that it has no alcohol in it.”
Natalie’s first stop in her global tour of wine is in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, into the area of vineyards which reminds her of the phrase “la France Profonde“ – deep France – the real thing. Her destination is the uber-expensive Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, home to some of the most expensive (and most delicious) wine in the world. Exploring the practice of pruning the vines back to force nutrients into a limited amount of grapes, it becomes apparent to the reader how much goes into producing this expensive liquid. Indeed, the amount of information that the vineyards collect on every square inch of their plot is staggering.
Biodynamic viticulture – probably a topic unknown to the casual wine drinker – is explored at ease with Natalie’s visit to Maison Leroy. As a négociant, a producer who buys grapes from other vineyards to mix with their own, the grape vines are left to survive the French seasons with no chemicals such as fertilizer, only a bit of unusual “homeopathic” treatments such as stinging-nettle tea and cow’s dung.
“Most people have heard of champagne, the wine, but few know much about the Champagne region, just ninety miles northeast of Paris” says Natalie. Witness to multiple wars throughout the centuries, the region is steeped in history, the result being a strong cultural identity. The production process of champagne borders on the absurd, and while explaining it in detail, Natalie manages to ruin a $500 bottle of Cristal and hilariously sprays a cellar worker with half a bottle of Bollinger.
If the book wasn’t fun enough, Natalie’s website Nat Decants certainly is. Her free monthly newsletter includes wine reviews, recipes, and other useful information. The best feature is the food and wine matcher, which offers up useful pairings for a near unlimited number of entrees, such as pairing quiche lorraine with Pinot Blanc. Merlot goes best with chicken stir fry, and for dessert, pour a Vin Santo or Riesling Spatlese with the apple fritters.
If you haven’t considered touring the vineyards in France or elsewhere –or maybe you have and want to hear someone else’s perspective – then pick up a copy of Red, White, and Drunk All Over today.