New book and app offers advice on finding the best wines

There is no question that Natalie MacLean has a great job: she makes her living writing about wine. As an award-winning wine journalist and columnist, her work has appeared in more than 60 magazines and newspapers.

She maintains a popular website that deals with all aspects of wine and has helped developed wine-related mobile apps for smart phones.

She is also an accredited sommelier — or professional wine steward, and is on a mission to break down the long-entrenched class and cost stereotypes associated with wine.

“There are stereotypes and a snobbishness associated with the price of wines,” MacLean says. “But it’s also an insecurity – a feeling of ‘This won’t be any good, so I can’t serve it to anyone.’ That is what I am trying to get away from.”

Author Natalie MacLean has an app and new book to help people buy tasty and cheap wine.
Photo by: Karry Taylor

Her new book “Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines,” offers recommendations for the best tasting wines that will fit almost any budget —including several priced at under $20.

“I think everybody, from students to working folks, all drink on a budget. But they don’t want to give up good taste,” MacLean says.

In addition to offering suggestions on the best bargain wines out there, MacLean also includes tips on the types of food to pair with each wine.

Wine Apps

MacLean has become involved in creating mobile apps related to wine. She says wine is a “natural fit” for apps designed for smart phones.

“Where do we make decisions about wine? The liquor store,” she says.

“People often will go into a wine store and they are too intimidated to ask for help. But they will scan a code or look up the information on their smart phone.”

MacLean’s free app allows users to scan a wine’s UPC code with the device’s camera, giving instant access to tasting notes and other information about the wine.

“There are 150,000 wines listed in the app,” MacLean says.

Wine Tastings

MacLean suggests that attending wine-tastings is another way to make wine less intimidating.

Damian Espinase, a sommelier who completed his training in Banff and Calgary and now works in Ontario, agrees that wine tastings provide a great opportunity to learn about wine.

Espinase says Calgary has “a great wine culture” and notes that several of the city’s wine markets have sommeliers on staff who are more than happy to answer questions.

“They have people who are super educated and try to help out by having wine tastings.”

Phil Vaive of Calgary has attended wine tastings in Calgary and elsewhere. He says they are fun, and enjoys the opportunity to learn about wines he has never heard of.

“I love going to wine tastings. My family and I go out to the Okanagan every summer, and going to the different wineries is a great way to spend an afternoon.

“It gives us a chance to try out new wines we never would have tasted before,” Vaive says.

ktaylor@cjournal.ca