The essays in Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass almost come up to a full bottle, and would have if author Natalie MacLean had only been supplied with a decent editor. When she stays out of the way of her own reporting, either sticking to the third person or playing a modest role, her pieces are quite interesting. Her profile of cult winemaker Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, for instance, is more informative and funnier than anything in Harding or McInerney; the essay on Champagne neatly twins a history of that great wine with the satisfying fact that it's a species with famously matriarchal lines. And her explication of the civil war sparked in the wine industry by critics Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson is rounded and objective. Unfortunately, when MacLean goes purely first-person, she gushes. In a piece about having dinner with McInerney, her quivering celebrity-consciousness nearly obscures some quite useful advice to wine novices about creating a cellar.

MacLean is energetic, dogged and willing to embarrass herself for our benefit, just not stylistically. Surely all she needs is a little aging in a good cellar, one hopes.

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