Drink: Natalie MacLean’s bargain wine book and wine picks & pairings app

So, you’ve just come back from a holiday where you enjoyed a great meal, and you want to try to recreate it, but can’t find the exact wine at home.  Or perhaps you’ve carefully packed an exquisite bottle in your suitcase, and want to introduce your friends to it over dinner.  But you can’t replicate the meal you had, so you’re stuck.  What do you do?

You check Natalie MacLean’s Wine Picks & Pairings app, of course!

Natalie MacLean is a wealth of wine info.  A fellow Ottawan, she is a certified sommelier, wine journalist and best-selling author, and winner of the World’s Best Wine Writer award at the World Food Media Awards.  Over 123,000 wine and food lovers subscribe to her free e-newsletter.  She wrote the bestselling book Red, White and Drunk All Over (her second book, Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines, comes out in fall 2011).  She is the only person to have won both the James Beard Foundation’s M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award and the Les Dames d’Escoffier International’s M.F.K. Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing.  She also edits a versatile wine web site (www.nataliemaclean.com).  All to say, I trust her when it comes to wine.

Natalie created this app to help people find, buy and enjoy wine better.  The app gives you access to more than 700,000 wine and food pairing suggestions (which Natalie wrote and vetted herself,  the info is not from computer-generated algorithms or crowd-sourced material).

You can snap a pic of a bar code on the bottle and get tasting notes, scores, recipes and food pairings for it.  You can figure out what will go best with the dried porcini you picked up in Italy.  You can create a virtual cellar to track your purchases (or your dream cellar), and you can track your tasting notes and other facts, like the names of the lovely couple in that tiny town in France who shared their bottle of that delicious Champagne with you.  And you can put your picks and pairings up on Twitter and Facebook.

If you’re shopping in Ontario (and you really should, we have a fantastic wine selection here), you can find out how many bottles the LCBO has in stock of the wine you’re looking for.

I’ve used the app many times – the first was, memorably, for a friend’s birthday party.  His lovely wife bought him 100 years of port — half bottles of Taylor Fladgate‘s 10, 20, 30 and 40 year old tawny ports.  They kindly invited us over, and I was in charge of bringing the birthday dessert.  Natalie’s app helped me decide to make Nigella Lawson‘s butterscotch layer cake.  And I have to say it paired perfectly :-)

The app confirmed last night’s pairing — barbecued lobster and homemade french fries with Champagne, and we did a taste test between Veuve Cliquot and Moet (the Widow won).  And the app suggested a new pairing — merlot, not just sparkling — with my favourite cheese, Brillat-Savarin.  Yum.  This is a very thorough app – ever wanted to know what wines pair well with chocolate Easter bunnies?  Natalie’s app will tell you!

I hope that in an upcoming version Natalie adds more info about why specific things pair well together.

I look forward to using it on my next trip when I find an unusual bottle!

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You can download the app, for free, at the following links:

For iPod Touch or iPhone:  http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/nat-decants/id353052386?mt=8

For BlackBerry, visit App World:  http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/10584

For Droid, Nexus One, Nokia, Windows 7 and other smartphones, use the mobilized web site here:  http://www.nataliemaclean.com/mobile

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Do you like wine, but hate paying high prices for it?  As of October 25, 2011, Natalie Maclean has a new book that will help you.  The book is Unquenchable: A Tipsy Guide for the World’s Best Bargain Wines.  To read more about it, and get some of Natalie’s top picks for Canadian wines, click HERE to read my piece in Where Magazine.

October 2012 update:  Now available in paperback.  Plus — like to match reading and drinking?  Natalie has added a new chapter with all-Canadian wine and book pairings (book club!).  Check out her tongue-in-cheek video.

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