One thing is certain about Natalie MacLean: she can sure spin a yarn. Unquenchable, the latest book by this popular Canadian author with a keen sense of self-promotion and a remarkable level of energy, is full of entertaining stories.

For example, there is a hilarious, semi-terrifying car ride with German wine producer Ernst Loosen, as he recounts the history of his country’s Riesling production while barely avoiding high-speed accidents—at least, that’s how it seems from the author’s point of view. There is a surprising story about falconry at Niagara’s Featherstone winery, as well as a meeting with the amicable Provence-loving hedonist Peter Mayle. And a number of the wine world’s renowned figures are on board, like Charles Beck, Wolf Blass, Nicolas Catena, Peter Gago, and Rupert Symington, to name but a few of the people MacLean is very quickly on a first-name basis with.

The book goes through several international (and one Canadian) wine region, looking to identify what makes them tick and, apparently, to find good deals for her readers, as the subtitle of Unquenchable is “A tipsy quest for the world’s best bargain wines.” It all seems like a fun and worthy quest.

Along the way, the “accredited sommelier,” as she calls herself, dispenses immense enthusiasm about the wines she tastes and the places she visits, taking a helicopter ride over the Niagara Peninsula with Martin Malivoire, of the Niagara winery of the same name, or falling for the spectacular vistas of Mount Etna or Provence, all the while cracking jokes and puns with great abandon. Natalie MacLean certainly can’t be faulted for being boring. She tends to go all out. As she says herself, “I have a hard time with moderation in anything.”

Matters for debate

Unfortunately, that seems to include a tendency for sweeping statements that can make your jaw drop, at times. While she must be complimented for making certain technical matters pretty easy to read, some of the statements would require more than a bit of tweaking to be called exact. For instance, in her opening chapter “A Nose for a Bargain,” where she states her intention to hunt the world for “great cheap wines,” she notes that “wine from regions such as Tuscany, Bordeaux, and Napa Valley have become too expensive for most of us.” You could say that top wines from those regions are too expensive, but saying that the region as a whole is too expensive is quite an overstatement. At the LCBO, the wine monopoly from MacLean’s home province of Ontario, you can find over 100 wines from Tuscany under $20 and as many Bordeaux in that price range as well.

In another example, MacLean states without reserve that “Malbec … doesn’t do well when grafted with other vines,” something that an Argentinian might argue because of their use of ungrafted vines, but that a lot of people in the Loire and in Cahors might take objection to—not to mention that Argentina’s heavily interventionist and technical winemaking style makes it difficult to verify that. Her statement that “Argentine Malbec is a much friendlier, cuddlier creature than the inky monsters of Cahors” is also a matter that could be debated at length.

There are also some debatable statements about the comparative length of the Niagara and Burgundy wine growing season and about Port vintages (saying “seek out the well-rated vintages close to a star vintage” to find value fudges the notion of vintage declaration quite completely). Devil’s in the details, they say …

Seeking value

The other main difficulty of the book is its ability to stay with its announced program of seeking value wines. For a bargain hunter, MacLean spends an awful lot of time drinking winemakers’ top of the line, expensive bottlings. Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz, Catena Alta Malbec or Quinta do Vesuvio Port are not exactly bargain bottles. In that sense, the choice of some producers visited in the various regions could seem a little distant from the stated purpose of the book.

Mind you, that she gets to enjoy such bottles is not a problem per se—lucky her, really. The problem is when bottles like those are defined as “best-value wines,” in the lists of good value she gives at the end of each chapter. In the Provence chapter, Château Simone and Domaine de Trévallon are listed as “top-value producers”—at $60 and more, they are both expensive and relatively rare wines.

Another example: the Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are included in the list for Ontario: at $40, they are not exactly value wines, in most people’s definition—the Village Reserve bottlings from the same producer, at $30, are at the top end of that definition, at the very best. Choosing Pinot as a value wine is already a somewhat contradictory choice, and justifying it by saying that “Niagara Pinots are a bargain compared to those in Burgundy, which easily top $50 a bottle as a starting price” is a little strange. Chablis is easily found in the low $20s, as are a lot of basic Burgundies and minor appellations. Where does one shop to assume $50 is a starting price for French Pinot?

So while Unquenchable is highly entertaining and does present a lot of good content, there are questions as to its “fitness for purpose,” to use a term that Jamie Goode used to define quality in wine—in other words, do you deliver what you promise and aim to do. In that respect, there are certainly more focused books about “best bargain wines,” out there. But then again, what was the name of her previous book? Oh yes: Red, White and Drunk All Over. That her new book seems a little dispersed may not be such a big surprise.


Rémy Charest is a Quebec City based journalist, writer, and translator. He has been writing about wine and food for over 12 years in various magazines and newspapers. He writes two wine blogs (The Wine Case, in English, and À chacun sa bouteille, in French) and, as if he didn’t have enough things to do, he also started a food blog in English, The Food Case, and one in French, À chacun sa fourchette.

About The Author

Remy Charest

Rémy Charest is a Quebec City based journalist, writer, and translator. He has been writing about wine and food for over 12 years in various magazines and newspapers. He writes two wine blogs (The Wine Case, in English, and À chacun sa bouteille, in French) and, as if he didn’t have enough things to do, he also started a food blog in English, The Food Case, and one in French, À chacun sa fourchette.

  • http://www.palatepress.com David Honig

    * * A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER * *

    A matter of concern has come to our attention.

    We noticed during a review of the comments below that Natalie MacLean and Kevin Johnston were posting from the same I.P. address. This indicates the comments were likely posted from the same computer and perhaps by the same person. MacLean refused to comment when asked about the issue.

    Anonymous comments are permitted on Palate Press. However, the use of sock puppets, shills, false flags, and other intentionally misleading internet behavior is not acceptable.

    We welcome any further comment by MacLean or Johnston, as well as any other explanations for the aforementioned events.

    David Honig
    Publisher
    Palate Press: The online wine magazine

    • http://joesgonesocial.com Joe Hackman

      I just wanted to clarify (as a un-biased third party, saw @unmarketing post a link on Twitter to this) if multiple users are posting from the same IP address it is highly possible they are the same person or:
      1. Using the same internet connection (i.e. Starbucks Wifi, corporate network, etc)
      2. Using the same proxy server (could be literally from anywhere, the IP of the proxy is recorded not the actual IP address of the computer).
      3. Using an anonymity service (shrouds the originating computer(s) IP addresses from the sites they connect to.

      If you want to narrow down the possibilities plug the IP address into arin.net and a site that does a location lookup of the address. You can also learn a lot by searching on Google for the actual address. If it is case #2 or 3 above you may see indications of that fact.

      Hope this helps you narrow things down, very curious development!

      Joe

      PS – in the interest of the facts I am willing to assist you with narrowing this down. I authorize you to respond to me via my Email address that I used to post this with.

      • http://andrewsalphabet.com Andrew F. Butters

        Well said, Joe.

        While highly suspect at this point you have highlighted some of the nuances and complexities that most people would have missed (or misunderstood).

        I am very curious as to what, if anything, Ms. MacLean and Mr. Johnston have to say on the matter.

  • http://www.nataliemaclean.com Natalie MacLean

    Hi Remy,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read and review my book: I”m delighted that you enjoyed the stories! You make some great points in your analysis as well.

    The reason why a wine like Catena Alta is mentioned is that the winery makes a range of wines that start with the $14 Alamos wines and to go up to Alta. For value seekers, trying wines at the lower end price range of a well-known producer is often a way to good deals.

    I believe that bargain doesn’t mean the same thing as cheap: rather, it’s the quality/price ratio. Getting more (taste/quality) than what you paid for is the goal. As a result, I believe that wines such as Le Clos Jordanne and many ports represent such value.

    Then again, value and bargain are subjective terms, as is the critique of wines and of wine books. Thanks again for adding to the discussion and keeping it lively!

    Cheers,
    Natalie

    http://www.nataliemaclean.com/book

  • Lev Lou

    Good post! Well done. Utterly relentless, steamrolling self-promotion, as evidenced by everything including her leaping to…self-promote yet again…in your own comments.

    It’s manic and unappealing, and more so since she runs so loose with her own premise (bargain wines).

    I won’t be subsidizing any of her wine trips.

  • Winetrackmind

    Love your review Remy and it is spot on! Value wines are great and something that we all look for, and for which all wineries should strive to produce. But as you point out, much of the writing and wines in this book are not values, nor in my opinion, not even new! Value Malbec from Argentina is so 2008 (2000 and late!)or 2009 and were discovered soooooo long ago that I can hardly believe that your average wine consumer doesn’t already know this. I won’t even comment on what is written about viticulture or other wine “facts”.

  • Kevin Johnston

    Lev Lou’s comments are a distasteful attack on the author that have nothing to do with her book. This smacks of sour grapes in light of the overwhelmingly positive reviews for this book.

    The reviewer opened the door to Lev’s comment with his own backhand snipe about a keen sense of self-promotion.

    Kudos to Natalie for taking the high road and responding to the facts only in this review.

    While we would not expect anything more from someone who calls himself or herself Lev Lou, we do from this web site. Until now, Palate Press has been my prime source of wine info because it has always presented the info factually, evenhandedly and fairly.

    Until now.

    For shame.

    Kevin Johnston

    • http://www.palatepress.com David Honig, Publisher

      Kevin,

      First, thank you for the kind words about Palate Press unrelated to the Lev Lou comment. We all appreciate them.

      Now, on the the heart of the matter. What you raise is actually a very complicated issue – what is an online publisher’s duty to edit comments? Unfortunately, the legal answer is really, the more you edit, the more you become the “publisher” of all your comments. In other words, if I remove one comment because it is nasty, if another is allowed to stand we own it. Here is an excerpt from something we ran on this issue last year (the whole thing is here- http://palatepress.com/2010/09/wine/wine-bloggers-and-the-law/):

      Even bloggers who blog under their own names might sometimes have to deal with anonymous comments. The first question a blogger needs to deal with is whether she should permit comments, and if she does, how they should be moderated. This is a potential trap. It sounds a bit odd, but the more you moderate, the greater the potential liability.

      The key phrase is “internet content provider.” An internet content provider is a person responsible, “in whole or in part,” for “creation or development of information provided through the Internet.” [9] An internet content provider can be held responsible for content they publish on their site, but not necessarily content published by somebody else, even if they provide the forum. The relevant statute says, ”no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” [10]

      Unfortunately, the statute defines the white and the black of the issue, but does not tell anybody when the lighter shade of gray counts as white, or the darker shade of gray as black. Drawing those lines, doing the dirty work of interpreting the statute, falls to the courts. A few courts have had the opportunity to address the matter, and this is what they have said:

      “The “development of information” therefore means something more substantial than merely editing portions of an e-mail and selecting material for publication.” [11]

      the “exercise of a publisher’s traditional editorial functions-such as deciding whether to publish, withdraw, postpone or alter content” do not transform an individual into a “content provider” within the meaning of sec. 230. [12]

      What does this mean for a blogger accepting comments on their website? As you can see, the law is still evolving, but based upon the statute and the cases, the important thing is to be sure that moderation is to keep out spam and bad language, and to edit for length, but not to take any actions that can be interpreted as approving a comment. That means not just publishing the comments you like, for doing so can make you the “internet content provider” of the comment. In the same vein, avoid editing for anything other than length, for if you edit for content, you risk becoming the “internet content provider” as well.

      Anonymous comments enjoy the same First Amendment protections as anonymous blog posts. The blogger can be put in the unusual position of an intermediary. Plaintiffs claiming they were defamed, or attempting to protect copyrights or trade secrets, have to go through the blogger or the website host to get to the commenter. That means a blogger can be part of a lawsuit, even if not a party to the lawsuit.

      As you can see, the decision to edit comments for anything other than length or language is actually a very difficult one, one that must be made, not comment by comment, but for the overall website. The recent decision in Washington State to enter a $1.5 million judgment against a blogger makes this sort of decision quite serious, and something that must be approached with caution.

  • Kevin Johnston

    Thank-you for your response David. I can appreciate that managing the comment section is a serious and potential expensive proposition. However, this is not simply a matter of a negative comment, but one of a personal attack, undeserved.

    The NY Times and many other sites have a flag symbol on each comment that you can check if it is either defamatory or a personal attack. I have seen comments dealt with swiftly that were flagged as such.

    This is both.

    To argue the merits of a book is legitimate, however negative or heated; to debate a person’s character is not.

    My suggestion if you are unwilling to take the responsibility that all publishers shoulder in offering a comments section, then rename this post for what it is:

    Open Season Character Assassination

    Then at least there will be equal opportunities to snipe about the actions and character of others in the wine industry.

    Regards

    Kevin Johnston

  • http://www.toledowinesandvines.blogspot.com Dave N

    Great review by Remy. The book sounds as if it might be an interesting read for most people. I like the fact that MacLean apparently devotes a fair amount of attention to Ontario. Although $40 may not sound like a value wine,the Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace is super high in QPR (quality price ratio).

    You certainly can quibble about some opinions offered, but I think any book that promotes Niagara Peninsula, German Riesling and Cahors wines accomplishes some good.

    Lev Lou must have just opened a corked bottle of wine. There’s no need to bash anyone for self-promotion. That’s just what book authors do…

    • http://www.palatepress.com Remy Charest

      Thanks for your comment, David. The book certainly is an entertaining read, as I’ve said, but I maintain that her definition of what value wines are is a little imprecise, among other things. I’m not contesting that Claystone is very much worth the money (on the contrary), but the scales of comparison are not exactly well-balanced if the argument of defining it as a value wine goes from the premise that 50$ is a starting price for burgundies – a statement that is simply not true. If you read the book, you’ll certainly be able to evaluate those matters more clearly.

      • Joie

        Did not like or more importantly agree with this review. For one the title implies some kind of scandal or fraud when in fact it is simply a difference of opinion. I love Mcleans writings, reviews, and ability to keep both simple and entertaining. That is, as Mr. Einstein pointed out, true genius. But I do thank you for this…it got my heart racing much like my favourite soap opera does :-D

        • http://winecase.ca Remy Charest

          Everybody’s entitled to their opinions, of course – hopefully, informed opinions. What I can’t figure out, here, is how “That’s Entertainment”, the title of this review, “implies some kind of scandal or fraud”. Entertainment is fraud? Beyond that, the issue that emerged in the comments is not a difference of opinion, it is, once again, a question of duplicity.

  • Kevin Johnston

    Dave, spot on about the definition of value, the impact of a corked bottle on one individual and the importance of this book to the Ontario wine industry. Take a look at what the wine critic for CBC’s Ontario Today show says about her book:

    http://www.nataliemaclean.com/book/mediareviews/unquenchable

    Kevin

  • http://www.tastingroomconfidential.com Mari Kane

    Funny you should release this review the day I post The Best Wine Books I Read This Year at http://marikane.com/wordpress/2011/12/15/the-best-wine-books-i-read-this-year/.

    I also took issue with the fact that Unquenchable barely delivers on its bargain wine promise, but that is more a case of mis-titleing than anything. The book is still a solid fun read no matter how much you pay for the wines. Lev Lou is simply jealous.

    Cheers anyway!
    Mari Kane

  • Eric Martin

    I find it interesting that Mr. Johnston complains about the “self-promoter” label placed on Ms. MacLean and then goes out of his way to promote her book by providing a link to her website. The cynics amongst us might wonder if there is a connection.
    Admittedly the Lev Lou post is over the top but compared to the majority of online posts in daily newspapers comments sections, it is fairly mild. Mr Charest is certainly not at fault here, having clearly backed up his opinions with examples from the book.
    Speaking of online posts in daily newspapers, Ms. MacLean did on more than on occasion respond to articles by the wine columnist of the Globe and Mail in Canada, including a link to her site.

  • http://www.robertgiorgione.com Robert Giorgione

    Wine is entirely personal. Taste is entirely personal. In addition, your own opinion on how a wine can be judged as being “a bargain” or “great value for money” is entirely personal.
    I applaud Natalie MacLean for opening up peoples’ minds to wine discoveries. The way should goes about it, writes her books with her entertaining stories purely demonstrates how personalised a journey through wine can be. Everyone makes generalisations once in a while. Moreover, to a certain degree, everyone is guilty of a little bit of ‘self-promoting’ when they add a comment onto a blog post. It’s called sharing your opinion and point of view.
    Please stop the sour grapes and beating each other up and just enjoy the wine.

    • http://vrazon.com Ryan

      Self promoting is not the issue Robert. The issue would be lying, if the IP scandal is true. Lying is not “sour grapes” but serious issue.

      Self promoting is fine. Some do it well, others to excess. Who cares. Lying about who you are, if that is the case of the Duplicate IP, is just plain wrong.

      • http://arnoldwaldstein.com/ Arnold Waldstein

        I agree Ryan.

        I believe in anonymous. I believe in authentic. They are not exclusive from each other.

        Deceit in any form, IP or whatever, is jut wrong.

        Life is too short to put up with it.

    • http://winecase.ca Remy Charest

      Ryan is absolutely right, here. If Ms MacLean had attacked my review and Palate Press openly, under her own name, we would be having a discussion about the merits – or simply agree to disagree. In this case, she says “I”m delighted that you enjoyed the stories!” under her own name, while “Kevin Johnston”, writing from the same IP and thus the same computer, calls out “backhand swipes” and tells us we should be ashamed for what has been published on this page – while taking the time to provide a link to Natalie MacLean’s site, no less.

      The issue is not self-promotion, here. It is duplicity.

  • http://www.newyorkcorkreport.com Lenn Thompson

    Robert: Sour grapes? What is there to have sour grapes over? I don’t understand that argument. And equating commenting on a blog post with self promotion — especially in the context of this comment thread — is borderline stupid. Sharing an opinion and POV is not the same a promoting yourself.

  • http://www.nataliemaclean.com Natalie MacLean

    I’m fortunate to have many supportive people in my life, both at home and at work. An IP address ties to a router, which in turn ties to a network of computers.

    Thank-you

    • http://winecase.ca Remy Charest

      So Kevin Johnston works on the same router/network of computers as you do? Can you send us a picture of the both of you together?

      • Eric Martin

        If Kevin Johnston is a friend/colleague/family member, obviously he should have disclosed that. This reply by Ms MacLean raises more questions than it answers.

  • http://www.nwwineanthem.com Clive

    Yo. Check out my blog.

    Just kidding.

  • Duarte Da Silva

    Natalie MacLean’s integrity is beyond reproach & should never be doubted. She would NEVER do something distasteful in the name of self-promotion, especially when it comes to her books. Just ask the late, great Joe Dressner http://www.datamantic.com/joedressner/pageback/2253/

    “Natalie Maclean, the Famous Wine Writer, Has Asked Me to Write A Promotional Blurb for Her New Book!
    I just received a note from Natalie Maclean, whom I’ve never met, to write a blurb for her new book, which I’ve never read. Why not? To simplify matters, Ms. Maclean has also furnished the text of my personal blurb, saving me considerable time and the trouble of having to read her book and make an evaluation which Ms. Maclean might find disagreeable. I wonder if this is how The New York Times also reviews books?”

    signed,

    (not) Kevin johnston.

  • konrad ejbich

    On matters like this one, I generally prefer to lie low and keep my mouth shut.
    It’s too easy to say things that are:
    a) uncalled for and unnecessary, and,
    b) litigable.

    But since my name has been dragged into the discussion in two ways, I have no choice.

    “Kevin Johnston” has provided my words on CBC-Radio to counter negative comments made by “Lev Lou.” Whether either of these names is real, I have no idea.

    Duarte Da Silva, who I know to be a real person, provides unrelated material suggesting that Ms. MacLean pre-wrote reviewers’ material for easy insertion into their columns or blogs.

    Isn’t that what PR people do? Or what writers who want to promote their own books ought to do? I get material from PR people every day, as well as from authors, winemakers, gadget hawkers and various others with an interest in getting publicity.

    To suggest that providing instant material is bad is flawed thinking.
    What’s bad is actually stooping so low as to use the pre-written material.

    For these reasons I must comment.

    In the early fall, I received an uncorrected proof copy of “Unquenchable” Natalie’s newest book. Subsequently, Natalie sent me an email asking me if I might let Ontario Today listeners know about it.

    I read through several chapters, paying particular attention to the one on Niagara and chose to comment.

    Here’s what I said on air, on November 25th, 2011 during the CBC Ontario Today phone-in:

    “Natalie’s writing is disarmingly enchanting: it’s a wine travel discovery journal. I admire the creative way she describes her experiences. This is also a really important book for the Ontario wine industry as it’s being published in numerous languages all around the globe. You know how readers like to re-trace the steps of famous writers? Well, this is going to draw people to this region. Dang, I wish I wrote this one!”

    These are MY words and I stand by them. No one pre-wrote them.

    Natalie has a vivid writing style and wonderful turn of phrase. She creates images of events and places in a way I can only dream.

    I see this book as a fun read, a good narrative, and wine travel book. I see it as a book to bring excitement and joy to wine in a way no pocket guide to Ontario vintages ever will. I do not see it as a journalistic endeavour to bring forth great truths. Natalie is a terrific writer but Natalie is not a journalist, in my humble opinion.

    If I were to pick on every miscue, erroneous “fact” and blatant myth, I would have to discount what is written by many “published authors” as well as a stunning number of bloggers and self-styled experts.

    In Natalie’s book, I chose to overlook its minor weaknesses and focus on it’s potential global impact for Niagara. Natalie is a writer who, through her luscious prose, has managed to create excitement among so many young people who are wine-curious yet completely turned off by the geekiness of most wine writing.

    Natalie’s book will be translated into many languages.
    It will sell a lot of copies.
    It will make a lot of money.

    For these reasons, I said, “Dang, I wish I wrote this book.”

    On the subjects of fakery, deceit, impersonation, immodesty or self-aggrandizement, I have no comment whatsoever.

    Cheers,
    konrad ejbich
    twitter: @WineZone

    • http://ithacork.com Tom Mansell

      Konrad:

      You said: “If I were to pick on every miscue, erroneous ‘fact’ and blatant myth, I would have to discount what is written by many ‘published authors’ as well as a stunning number of bloggers and self-styled experts.”

      Should the books that will become the most popular not be held to higher standards? Writers generalize (and in doing so, cloud the actual facts) about wine all the time, but does that mean they shouldn’t be called on it?

      It seems like the duty of a reviewer to do just that.

  • http://frogspad.ca Craig Pinhey

    Konrad, I have no comment on the quality of her writing other than to say that it is clearly not aimed at me, which is fine. I COULD comment on whether she has any useful wine knowledge, but that is not the issue here. All of us who write about wine for a living engage in self-promotion to survive, but there is a line which, if crossed, demonstrates a real ethics problem. Where that is is a matter of opinion, but I personally think this crosses that line, at least 3 or 4 times, and this is not the first time.

    Cheers!
    Craig

    • http://www.newyorkcorkreport.com Lenn Thompson

      This is not the first time? Are there other examples of Natalie doing something like she’s alleged to have done here?

      • http://frogspad.ca Craig Pinhey

        Not exactly like this, at least not that I know of, but there are quite a few other examples which others have related to me over the years. I’ll let them talk about them, if they so choose. I only have one personal example, which is relatively petty compared to this, if it is indeed true.

  • Not Kevin

    An IP address is not “tie[d] to a router.” Every computer has a unique IP address. Maybe Natalie can post an article on her site explaining this that I can link to.

  • Eric Martin

    So Remy you tried to write a fair and balanced review about an entertaining book that has certain inconsistencies . Then all hell broke loose. Who knew? I thought you accomplished your goal and should be commended for it. Keep up the eloquent prose in both official languages.

  • Paul R

    Kevin Johnston has a twitter account at @KevinJohnstonMW. I do not understand why anyone thinks that Natalie and Kevin are the same person.

    • Rod Phillips

      There is no Kevin Johnston in the worldwide list of MWs at mastersofwine.org

  • http://grapes2u.blogspot.com strictlytasting

    An experience I’ve had with the ‘Natalie MacLean’ personna indicated there are several, 7 at the time, respondees each using the same name. It took me several e.mails to recognize different phrasings in replies I received to question the source.

    At the time I was surprised but then recognized this could be needed in a business that ranges from wine related opinions to technical aspects of designing and maintaining a very large website, newsletters, tasting notes, etc. Plus there is no Master of Wine named Kevin Johnston on the http://www.mastersofwine.org/ website consequently MW referred to must stand for something quite different.

    Someone or several persons are playing games and it doesn’t reflect well on the real Natalie nor her contribution to the ‘industry’.

    • Tom Kisthart

      Before hitting the MW site you should have checked the Twitter account. It is a spoof account. MW was added as a joke. Kevin Johnston makes no mention of MW in his initial post.

      • http://grapes2u.blogspot.com strictlytasting

        Thanks… I took the Twitter account in the same spirit as the ‘Kevin Johnston et al’ comments here.

  • http://underthegrapetree.com kevin keith

    Damn there is a lot of fur flying on this thread! Reading the whole thing has made me a bit seasick, but what comments I can lend, for whatever help or hindrance it may be, is I was privileged to have been asked to help Natalie edit her book prior to publishing. I don’t know Natalie personally, but we’ve been “friends” through the whole social-media/FB/Twitterverse/blogosphere for a while, and she approached me to take a look at it. I was shocked, and pretty honored to have someone actually published to ask little ol’ me for help. I am sure I wasn’t the only one, as this was a time-sensitive project to be sure. I read the manuscript, which wasn’t titled at the time, and unlike any wine book I have read up-to-that-point, or since then for that matter, I laughed my ass off throughout. Not because it was bad, but because it was damn funny, and thoroughly enjoyable. Not kibbitzing on what is a value and what is not, I got caught up in what was generally a fun, enjoyable look at how Natalie views and lives in the wine world. There were some cultural things I had to “Google” to find out their meanings, but aside from that I really liked the book. Look, my life in this business is crazy – a freneticly-paced hyperbole with the combination of retail wine buying, writing as masturbation for a blog of maybe 11 readers (maybe that’s a generous estimate),studying for all those different wine certifications (MS, MW, CWE), establishing myself as one of the premier cat wranglers… you get my drift, so it was a huge feat for me to edit someone’s manuscript, and get it back to them in rapid fashion. But it was the first wine book I can say I enjoyed reading. Natalie, in my opinion, is one of those souls that gets who the generations after the Baby Boomers and through to the Millenials look at and approach wine. She rips the pretense and elitism right out of wine, and that is awesome. The controversy? Whatever? It isn’t the damn Oxford Companion to Wine and shouldn’t be either. Hope she does an audio version so I can listen to it in my car.

    • http://www.newyorkcorkreport.com Evan Dawson

      Kevin – You seem like a nice guy, but as an observer of this thread, I have to say I waded through this comment and was left wondering if you have any idea what this controversy is about.

  • http://www.bytheglass.ca Mark DeWolf

    Stripping the pretense and elitism of wine is fantastic… I don’t think anyone questions that Ms. Mclean is a gifted writer and I am sure any wine writer in Canada would love her to have her gift to write in a such a melodic and seemingly effortless way…yet call me East Coast but lets cut through the BS…we’ve all received those personal emails from Natalie that are as fake as “Mr. Kevin Johnston”…Ms. McLean should get an “A” for her writing skills, an “A” for her marketing ability and “F” for being a real person. Natalie should just come clean. This is a business and her business is bigger than herself. The simple ethical thing for her to do is say there are a number of people that make this all happen; simple as that. Until then I’ll patiently await my next email purposefully written to make me think Natalie has taken time out her hectic day to send me a quick personal note.

  • http://frogspad.ca Craig Pinhey

    My problem with this “stripping the elitism” role she plays is that I don’t buy it. I think it is all a well executed act. I suspect she is actually the snobbiest Canadian wine writer. Who else makes sure she visits DRC, and name drops all the big personalities etc. A true humble wine seeker knows that the real problem in the world is that “elitist” wines like DRC are priced out of the reach of honest wine lovers, reserved only for rich people (like her?) If she was a regular wine writer, she’d travel with other writers, participate in wine judgings, visit the NS wineries she sometimes writes about (!) and actually hang out with other writers from time to time. I’ve never seen her. I don’t know any Cdn wine writer who hangs with her, but the rest of us pretty much all know each other. Is she afraid of being exposed as someone who actually knows very little about wine? I have no idea, and I don’t really care, but there sure seems to be some major fakery about her. That said, she sure seems to have crafted a successful career in writing, so she shouldn’t care what any of us thinks.

    • Eric Martin

      For some people all publicity is good publicity but I don’t think Remy’s review will be on her website. Anyway…It’s just my opinion but maybe people should turn their attention to other wine matters now.

  • http://www.1winedude.com 1WineDude

    All – regarding IP addresses, they do not necessarily, from the point of view of an external network, represent the same computer or device. I feel I have some pertinent background here since for a few years some time ago I ran the web hosting division for a major CPG company :) (note: I said “ran” as in “managed the division” and not as in “installed routers” so the exact tech details are not going to be my specialty here!):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_address#Public_addresses

    Now, having said that, if the IP address is exactly the same for the comments in question here, then it is very likely that the comments originated from the same physical network. I.e., it is possible that they came from the same physical machine, and they almost certainly came from machines on the same network (in a home network behind a router, or from computers in the same office building, or from machines that share the same externally-facing network link).

    Example: Every machine and device on my home network will show the same ip address to the external world of the Internet, including blogs that record IP address for commentors. More than likely your networks behave the same way (you can test this – go to whatismyip.org from any of the devices on your network, chances are they will all show the same exact same address regardless of device – while checking the *local* ip address of those devices will show unique IPs for each). iPads, laptops, desktop PCs, etc. will all show the same *external* IP in those cases – my router figures out which device requested what externally, and then routs that data to those devices inside the network, which each *do* have their own unique IP addresses on that network relative to one another, but not to the outside world which never sees those addresses.

    Hope this helps – it’s not a comment either way on whether or not Natalie did or didn’t write comments here under different names, just that it’s possible she did but also possible that she did NOT (you would need details about the network from which the comments originated to make that determination). Having hung out a bit with Natalie I can say that my personal opinion is that I’d be quite surprised if she did author a second set of comments under a false name – just a character assessment based on a short amount of time that I spent with her.

    • http://www.1winedude.com 1WineDude

      Oh – a quick addendum to this after some further reflection (yeah, I’m a geek like that):

      Depending on what tracing code / cookies PP uses, it is possible to ascertain with at least some certainty (maybe not 100%, but probably 90%+) if the same computer was potentially used to leave both of the comments in question. I.e., it can only be 100% proven if have details of the originating network, but if the tracking code shows identical results then it is MUCH more likely that the comments came form the same computer, as in “beyond most reasonable doubt” likely.

      Ok, back to ignoring work on some other blog! :)

  • Krys

    Thank you Remy for speaking on behalf of the readers and real wine lovers. Your perspective and observations are relevant and accurate.

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  • Jake

    I just don’t understand why she included Les Clos Jordanne for Niagara when there are much better wines being produced from the smaller operations. Oh, wait. I got it now. Nevermind.

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  • WineLush

    Wow, Remy I totally enjoyed munching popcorn to this saga. And everyone and ms Natalie & Mr. Kevin, this is a case of “shut up & fess up” the more Ms. Maclean tries to cover up the more we realize she’s total rubbish at telling the truth. It’s really easy to lie but it’s really hard to keep track of lies.

    Couple years ago she came through my computer I think with a solicitation about her site or it was an app or newsletter or god knows what, I didn’t care for her information as at that time I was more highly evolved than she was in regards to the beverage industry and I didn’t care for dumbing stuff down when she was using inaccurate examples. So I ignored her stuff. There was a similar character on Twitter called the wine maven who also sends out tons of blurps of inaccurate wine info and she eventually banned me for all the corrections I sent her but that’s another story. But like the maven ms Maclean has taken the Fox News style of reporting if you say it & promote it enough, well it must be true. Right? When it comes to ethics in journalism I have no mercy for any hack who steals. I’ve had it happen to me and the feeling in your stomach that someone is taking credit for your work is inconsolably painful. So I hope she’s further found to be a fraud and that it goes mainstream because people who take advantage like this are just grifters. And before someone has a fit about character assassination, I’m being kind in what I could say about plagiarists.

  • Boring Cdn

    I haven’t trusted “Natalie Maclean” since she charged my credit card for a subscription renewal despite agreeing not to, both at the time I subscribed and then again when the renewal notice came due. Only got it reversed after threatening to dispute the transaction with VISA.

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