Cover Image: Wine Witch on Fire

Wine Witch on Fire

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Member Reviews

Sometimes, a stranger “friends” you on Goodreads and asks if you’d be a beta reader for a memoir they’ve written. It doesn’t always go well. But this time, I was the lucky one.

I loved this book.
It was so very exquisitely well-written.

I learned so much - about wine, winemakers, the industry, psychology, witch hunts, history, misogyny, social media. The strength of women. Addiction, moderation, sobriety, handling feelings, being truly YOU. This woman has (in true psychologist lingo) DONE THE WORK.

As a psychologist and as a woman, I am inspired by the journey Natalie Maclean has taken, including writing such an important memoir.

This book explores vulnerability and shame, alcoholism and friendship. Love and yearning. Growth and change. What an amazing memoir.

And, I loved the quotes from so many of my favorite books. This writer is also clearly a reader.

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I know very little about wine, and even less about the wine industry. To say I was surprised to learn how misogynistic, dramatic and cutthroat that world can be behind the scenes is an understatement. This memoir was highly enjoyable. I learned a lot, laughed, teared up. Natalie is so relatable even though it’s a completely different world from the one I know. No matter what your background, I think you’ll enjoy this book.

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Natalie McLean is the rare person who has been criticized and bounced back from it with grace. It might have helped that her career calamity was pretty minor, even in her eyes. "Wine Witch on Fire" explores 2012 from the demise of her marriage to the potential demise of her career to finding new love and a new purpose.

McLean intersperses anecdotes from her life with her love of witches and some scholarly bits about them. Parts of the book seem almost like she realized midway through the chapter that it was similar to a specific historical figure. She does the same thing with specific wines.

While the actual events in the book happened over ten years ago, she includes ways that year has changed her career and thoughts since. This is primarily when she discusses how she doesn't drink as much anymore and her focus on minority and women winemakers.

The events in this book occurred a decade ago and you can tell that she struggles to remember or summarize some of the conversations so the writing comes off as very amateur in places. She's also recovered so much from those events that you don't always experience the full emotion of them.

Ultimately, this is another memoir by another woman who struggled just enough to justify writing a book about it.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy of this book for an honest review.

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While I’m not a sommelier or a divorcée, there’s so much to relate to in this book. I always hope that if (when…I should say “when”) I get around to writing a book, someone will relate to the challenges, reflect on their own lives and find hope in the words, even if we have completely different lives. In that same respect, I truly appreciate when someone is willing to be open and share their experiences for those that may have never heard of them or their work.

I enjoy wine (and witch references), but I really don’t know much about it. I have enough knowledge to know what I can/can’t stomach, the only wine magazine I ever read just completely went over my head. I occasionally browse memoirs and biographies looking for something interesting, I life to bury myself in for a few days, but may never have come across this if it wasn’t for NetGalley and I appreciate the publisher and author for providing an ARC for an honest review. Point is, I wouldn’t have sought it out, never hearing of Natalie MacLean, and I’m so glad the catchy title caught my eye.

For some, it may be a fast read, but I personally didn’t find that flow with some of the structure and bouncing around. I found myself bummed at times, because I’d be really into a topic and it would switch, which lead me to the medium pace rating. As whole, it all comes together and I appreciate the writing style, the education…I’m still not a wine pro, but know way more thanks to the life/wine analogies that resonate way more with me than magazine descriptions.

I think MacLean herself puts it best…

Readers can’t identify with experts who remove themselves entirely from their writing. They touch your mind with their analysis like a cold point of steel, but they don’t open your heart with empathy.

We’ve all been scorned at some point, whether in relationships, business or friendships. You don’t need to have lived the life MacLean has to relate to what she’s experienced and feel empowered to rise.

Another aspect I thoroughly enjoyed…it reads like you’re chatting with a friend. The early mentioned transitions that through me off a bit and slowed me down are totally justified when I think about catching up with friends over wine or coffee, we definitely jump around in conversations, and this ties it all together.

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Sadness, joy, anger, bewilderment – a rollercoaster of emotions as we follow Natalie (the Wine Witch!) on her voyage of self-discovery and affirmation as she deals with heartbreak, rediscovers love, finds her voice, and takes on the misogynistic wine establishment (those cowards don’t know what they’ve unleashed). Quite the ride!

Personally, I was aware of some of the issues with the industry, but not of the scope of the problem. That such influential people could behave in such an inappropriate way left me gobsmacked. There is no place or time for this sort of behaviour and it needs to be confronted at every turn, by all of us.

My favourite part – I like her writing style, the humour and how she intersperses it with wine tidbits here and there. This is more than a book for her and that shows – in a very good way.

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I recommend you read the book and talk with others about the messages. Our society is sadly not comprised of fully enlightened people and there are pockets, or whole industries, that are still rife with misogyny. Natalie has recounted her experiences of this, supported by facts and expert opinion, adding both context and gravitas to the narrative. But she has interspersed stories of the various successful women vintners, proving that the industry can be different and succeed; a stark contrast to the grossly misogynistic whiskey and wine reviews she discusses. Her honesty is woven throughout the book, including her thoughts about alcohol consumption. These are a welcome reminder to me (and likely most others).

I really enjoyed the bits of humour sprinkled throughout; very dry just like I want my wine. And because they were only sprinkled they were unexpected and more effective than if she had thrown in more. Natalie also talks about being a supertaster, good info I didn’t know about. I also like her approach to providing reviews only on wines she would recommend, again in contrast to the bullies that like to belittle others who might have put in legitimate effort but fallen short this year (while the bullies produce nothing).

The last dozen or so chapters are the strongest writing, certainly for the material (important for people to read this) but perhaps also due to the perspective she has developed since the events.

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I don’t think you need to know anything about divorce, depression, or drinking to appreciate Natalie’s story. Her memoir is personal, inspiring, and relatable on many levels. That being said, I connected to her story as a woman who has had personal and professional challenges, and also as a person who has been misunderstood. I really think this will speak to anyone who has just felt like they want their message to be heard! This is a really meaningful memoir, and well-written too. Would definitely recommend.

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I would get to the end of a chapter and think one more and suddenly it would be 2 a.m. l loved the titles of the chapters and so savoured her writing style. Being very visual I could imagine her mother sitting at her kitchen table or meeting her at a highland dance event where she was performing.

My husband and I debated the title of this book and I told him you have to read the whole book to see what is involved. I personally liked the title a lot and equated it to the Phoenix rising from the ashes.

I love the references to witches. Being of Italian heritage, we celebrate la festa della Befana. This Befana really likes Vin Santo and cantucci for the gifts she brings.

I liked how her book ends as a book of healing and how you interpret it depends on who you are. To me it’s a coming-of-old-age “about creating my own labels rather than accepting those others slapped on me”.

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Heartfelt,sincere and with some humor thrown in, this book will entertain you.
Thanks to author, publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.

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3.5 -This was a very enjoyable, interesting read, but if anything, its organization took me out of the story. There were jumps between deep insight into divorce to a wine industry scandal that just felt very sudden.

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Canadian wine expert Natalie MacLean’s latest memoir, her third book, is an enlightening exposé on the reality of women working in the wine industry. Her honest account of what it’s like to work in a male-dominant industry, how she faced her divorce, her defamation accusations, and her weakness toward drinking to cope made this memoir highly relatable and readable. She compares what she went through to a witch hunt, hence the title.

My recent interest in learning more about wine brought me to MacLean’s website, TV segments, courses, and books. But it was this memoir that truly made me understand the courageous woman behind the name. I say courageous because it takes guts to bare one’s emotions and show vulnerability when the media has already set you on fire! But therein lies the strength of facing one’s trials and fears, as MacLean did, making this memoir hopeful and uplifting.

MacLean’s writing is fluid and contemplative, almost reading like a novel. Never boring, and most illuminating, it also satisfies those thirsting for wine knowledge. Her narrative is interspersed with different wine tastings and the challenges of the wine-writing world. I was thrilled that she included a section at the back of the book on the wines she talks about throughout her memoir, as well as their history.

Most of all what stood out to me is that MacLean is a feminist at heart. Although working in an industry where misogyny, competition, and bullying are accepted, MacLean has not lost her big heart in spreading her wine knowledge and the happiness that a good glass of wine can bring. Especially in the celebrations of life.

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I am really on the fence about this book as I questioned things that were brought up to be "fact". Frankly, I would blame Bravo and their Real Housewives shows more than anything for being guilty of selling and pushing women to drink wine ... how many of these women end up with their own :wineries: (aka a company making and labelling their wine for these women's fans. I mean RINNA WINES???????) That's not misogyny, that's marketing brilliance!)

The biography part of the book was an interesting read but overall, it just wasn't my cup of tea....I did promise to be honest. Fine for anyone who knew who she was before the book was written.

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Raising Another Glass...

M.F.K. Fisher wrote, in The Art of Eating (a compendium of five of her books):

“So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.”

I like to believe that my own food writing was about more than just food. I also like to think that, just because it was written in a humorous style, doesn’t mean that it was entirely frivolous—but there’s a good chance that I have been deluding myself.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from talking to (and reading the work of) other writers, it’s this: we spend an inordinate amount of time being plagued by self-doubt. And wondering if we will ever have an idea for another book after we finish the current project. It’s a form of existential angst, in which one’s very existence (at least as a writer) is infected by uncertainty.

I recently had the chance to read an advance copy of Natalie MacLean’s next book (Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much). It will be released in May—a most appropriate time, in which the miracle of Spring will wash away the shivery doubts of Winter.

Natalie is a well-respected, and best-selling, author of books about wine—but, like MFK Fisher’s writing, this book is not really about wine. Certainly, readers will spot wine (usually pinot noir) stains on most of the pages, but the book is really about her dealing with self-doubt—albeit self-doubt caused by a ghastly combination of external and internal forces, real and imaginary. However, her tale is neither mawkish nor depressing. In fact, there were many places where I literally laughed out loud—and not just in the internet’s LOL sense.

“Do you have to be serious to be professional? Must levity be the opposite of gravitas when the two make a more complex blend? Science has shown that the moment after we laugh, our attention to a message is highest.”

She can turn a phrase with the best of them. That’s a lot more than we can say about many of the wine writers who were the antagonists to her protagonist. While struggling against the stresses those antagonists-in-the-trade had given her, she asked a friend about how telling her side of the story would be perceived.

“It’s not slanderous to tell your friends what happened.”
“What about writing a book?” I was joking.
“You can do that as long as it’s your opinion about what happened. Tell your story from your perspective. It’s also not slander or libel when something is true.”

Whatever doubts might have cursed her back then—when the events of the book still held her in their evil spell—the writing, itself, helped her find a way to exorcise them. This book proves that she did have another book in her—and not just another good book about wine, but a good book.


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I was afraid that reading about divorce would be depressing. I was pleasantly surprised.

Although I have not personally experienced the emotional drain of divorce, this memoir helps me to understand why friendship with divorced couples can deteriorate. There is an awkwardness that can exist. Watching friends adapting to a new life can be daunting.

This memoir reminds me that divorce can alter personalities and often there is a need to disconnect with past memories. A “gentle” reminder for me to understand and not to judge.

Misconduct exists everywhere and is exhausting. The historical stories, descriptions and the humour in this memoir provide optimism.

I hope that other readers will be left with the same conclusion.

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Well done! Very creative, sad and funny at the same time.
I can totally relate to this memoir. I felt like she was writing my story in parts. Loved the balance between educational parts and those very personal ones. I tried to get the before-going-to-sleep routine done as quickly as possible so I could enjoy the next chapter in bed. My brain and my heart really enjoyed the book.

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This book is a story of misogyny, online trolling, and just plain bad behavior.
The thing I appreciate most about this book is that the author had the strength and courage to write the story, even if it took a few years to bake until she was ready. Extra stars for that.
I am grateful to the author for providing a pre-publication copy of the book to review.
I wondered at times, "where is this story going?"--as I imagine the author herself wondered in the moment. More than once, I yelled "Nooooooooo!" and "What were you thinking?!?" to various characters in the book as I observed a train wreck put together in words on a page.
The end was satisfying enough, but the whole thing could have been avoided if people weren't jerks. But then we wouldn't have a story. Who needs a quiet normal life? We had drama. We learned some things. We grew. We carved a new happiness out of old.
Finally, I _loved_ the companion wine guide. It makes me want to host a book+wine club when the book is released.

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Raw and riveting, Wine Witch On Fire takes you on a journey across the gamut of human emotions. You'll feel like you're talking to MacLean over a glass of wine as she shares her story of losing it all, only to rise from the ashes wiser and stronger, all while sharing what feels like insider information on the wine industry. Most people, especially women, will find the story relatable. I found some of my biggest strengths and weaknesses on the pages, and I'm coming away from the story with new perspectives on how to tackle some of my life's biggest lessons. Perfect for a vacation read, this will be a book you can't put down!

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Like a fine wine, Natalie’s story both complex and memorable. The tannic roughness of entrepreneurial adversity and how her experiences matured into a fulsome finish is magical. Almost as if created by a witch – a wine witch.

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This is a very entertaining book about wine and a woman in the wine industry who faced many obstacles to achieve joy and to be where she is today in her public and personal life.

The book made me feel sad, mad, angry, then relieved and joyful. It's a bit of a rollercoaster in a good way - the fun kind.

The book made me consider how we don't usually follow a linear path to our goals, chosen career or dreams and that is ok. It also made me contemplate the times I did not face my own fears and what would be different if I had.
So going forward I will try to face them. The book reminds me of the strength of women like Natalie and her mother, my mother, aunts and grandmothers.

I really enjoyed her sense of humor and how she kept it with her in difficult times. I also enjoyed the chapter titles. For me the best parts were her finding love, healing and her strength again and also when she confronts her detractors.

She has accomplished a great deal in her lifetime. I'm inspired by this!

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I was hooked quickly by the very readable prose that carried such interesting details - details that make you yearn to learn more!

Immediately I was intrigued and wanted to know all the details. Natalie is able to give you a very harsh look at her life and in turn let you look at your life with a new light. Forgiveness is a powerful thought that will give us all hope for our future together.

The witch theme is wonderfully sprinkled throughout with interesting facts and comparisons - giving a whole new view of the wonderful characters that have suffered as part of the male dominated world that we have endured.

The wonderful wine details are weaved throughout the book along with the horrific details of the world in which we all find ourselves.

There are realities that are hard to digest and there are some moments that will make you laugh - making it a readable, enjoyable novel that will shine a light on life and have you looking at yourself a little more carefully.

Well done!

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