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Bouquet  - G. B. Stern
Alfred A Knoff, New York, Second printing, 1928 (First published June, 1927)
Review by David Farmer
Gladys Stern in the vineyards at Chateau Margaux.*

I cannot recall how I got to know about Bouquet. I purchased a copy from a dealer on Amazon for $30.00. I read books like this to gain a better idea of how wine was thought about prior to say 1950-1960, before it exploded in popularity in the English speaking countries and turned perhaps a simpler pleasure into the scientifically studied beverage of today.

I also wanted to compare Bouquet with, 'In Search of Wine, A tour of the Vineyards of France' by Charles Walter Berry which details a round trip of France that this famous winemerchant undertook in1934. Our review of this book is here.

I did not expect a lot from Bouquet but how wrong I was. There are many beginnings to the modern dream of spending an extended holiday in France or Italy, or even living there for a year or so, a dream which later spawned its own publishing segment with many best selling triumphs.

Today touring around the wine regions of France is commonplace and has spread to travelling in many of the world's wine regions, so much so that the topic of wine tourism is now studied as a segment of wine marketing courses.

Two English couples, Johnny and Gladys and Rosemary and Humphrey came together in Avignon on September 5th, 1926, and with a newly purchased Fiat spent the next five weeks touring the vineyard regions of France.

They were quickly into a Chateaux Rayas 1920 and the author developed the first of many doubts: "There really are no words to describe wine, its aroma and flavour and aftertaste, beyond those commonly used in wine-merchants catalogues. I had hoped to invent an entirely fresh set, each term as vivid as it was original: but I soon learnt humility."

Then the traveller's, not the author who was unsure, were detecting gun-flint in the whites of Cote du Rhone-a St. Peray, a term now more commonly reserved, unconvincingly, for sauvignon blanc's. Times and fashions change though recently I was drinking a Saint Joseph (Guigal) 2005 and I reflected on Sterns note and indeed they may be right as marsanne does have a smoky-mineral like back palate (although at times this group also use the term for Rhone red wines).

You will warm to Stern's scepticism about wine tasting vocabulary as soon she notes; "We dined at Saint-Remy, on the open veranda over the garden, and drank a Chateauneuf du Pape which tasted like nice chewed grass. This was Rosemary's description, and Johnny and Humphrey said she was right. Personally, I found as little suggestion of chewed grass, even of nice chewed grass, as I had found of rose-petals in Tavel, or of gun-flint in Saint Peray. By this time I was growing humble about my indiscriminating olfactory nerves, and content to accept the verdicts of my friends."

Fortunately she soon forgets her own advice and from a Chateau Grillet 1874 we are given this evocative description: "..silky as poppy petals, with a marvellous new witchery in its flavour: so that I felt like saying haughtily, when offered wine in the future, that I never drank anything less than fifty two years maturity!"

It's soon apparent that these traveller's know there wines and visited; Chapoutier, Delas Freres, M. Louis Calvet, Ch Lafite, Ch Margaux, Ch Yquem, Chateaux Vignan [? perhaps Ch De Rayne Vigneau], Chateaux Filhot, Chateaux Latour Blanche, Ch Ausone, M. Jaboulet-Vercherre of Pommard, Domaine de la Romanee Conti, as well as touring the hill of Cote Rotie. They loved wine with bottle age though they began most meals with the local white wine and finished with an aged cognac.

In the age of grading we take a star or point classification of wine, restaurants and hotels for granted. They were guided by a newly purchased Michelin which until 1926 only graded hotels. In that year Michelin introduced a one star system for the best restaurants. While many of us have travelled to France and dreamt of discovering an unknown sensational restaurant the reality is, it's not going to happen.

Well they still could; "When we left Le Puy the next morning, we saw by the Michelin that it was a run of 45 kilometres to Sauges; there at the Hotel de France, marked only with an egg cup and spoon, we might be able to have a tolerable lunch."

Nine courses later they left in silent awe.

"When we went down, we spoke a few dazed words of thanks and praise to Mme Anglade, the proprietress, a thin, quiet wisp of a woman. Ah madame, she replied, "I was perhaps a good enough cook once....But one gets old and one loses courage.."

[Both Elizabeth David and Mrs Fisher had similar experiences and I thank all that I was at Alain Chapel shortly before he began his rise to fame]

Madame and Her Staff at Hotel de France, Sauges.

In Bordeaux the introduction they had to M Calvet, one of the trading aristocrats, produces perhaps the finest passage is Bouquet. This in turn led to Stern displaying her dislike of sweet wines: At the Hotel de Lion d'Or for a lunch organised by M. Calvet they began with a Cheval Blanc 1923; "It was hopelessly sweet, of course, sweeter even than our apprehensions." And next a Ch Siglas-Rabaud 1922 which made the first wine seem dry. And after a trip to Y'Quem when discussing the importance of the discovery of botrytis we are told; ".. which might have produced wine fit for gentlemen to drink-ay, and even ladies,... produced instead this clinging, highly perfumed, luscious, and full-blooded horror known as the great wine of Sauterne!"

At Chateau d' Yquem. Chauffeur of M.Garosse (was M. Garosse an associate of M.Calvet?), Humphrey, Rosemary, M. Garet (Manager? at Yquem), Gladys. Probably Johnny took the picture.*

This is one of several passages that reveal the reason why Stern does not like sweet wines. Long ago she got fed up with men assuming she would like something sweet and feminine. In wine tasting emotions play a strong role.

Midway, Stern unfolds a lovely tension between the couples. Johnny and Gladys had a wine experience with Chateaux Margaux 1899 which confirmed that the greatest reds come from Bordeaux. Rosemary and Humphrey, built around experiences with the wines of Domaine de la Romanee Conti, are equally certain that Burgundy reveals the real truth of wine. So as they travel to Bordeaux the start of the showdown looms and my enjoyment of this book moves up.

Rosemary makes her displeasure of Bordeaux known with, "It's so acid!" she complained. "It pulls my mouth together, and afterwards my tongue feels like blotting paper." And this outburst leads to a series of fine arguments about the merits of each which interestingly make Burgundy seem the reliable choice, somewhat the reverse of recent times.

The case for Bordeaux was put by Johnny.

"The whole trouble about Burgundy is, to my mind, that it's just a straightforward, sound wine...It has a good Burgundy bouquet, and a good Burgundy body, and a good Burgundy aftertaste. It keeps well, and is very rarely disappointing, and that's that.......But Bordeaux........It simply gets you, so that no other wine can ever mean the same again; and if the bad clarets are fifty times worse and fifty times oftener bad than the bad Burgundies..." "They are," interrupted Rosemary.

With lunch they had a Chateaux Petrus 1913. "......it just did not appeal to me: the Petrus was too like Burgundy, and not enough like Bordeaux!" says Gladys though Humphrey and Rosemary liked it.

Later Gladys and Johnny had their hearts broken. "But at dinner that second night at Libourne, we gave the Bordeaux region its last chance, and in a spirit of desperate defiance ordered a bottle of 1887 Latour, not chateaux-bottled, but still perhaps..Perhaps, and maybe, and yet-might-it-be-possible... Rosemary shook her head. "Rather poor!" was her verdict. "It makes my tongue feel as though it had been sandpapered!"

From Bordeaux to the Loire and Burgundy and as the end of the trip looms they check into a hotel in Macon noted for a fine Burgundy cellar; alas it has changed hands and is being renovated. The mood is dirty. Rosemary then gives us one of the great wine passages of all time: "I'm never going to recommend any place again!" said Rosemary, vehemently. She was not very far from angry tears. "Never again! This is what always happens if I do. I wish we hadn't stopped. I expect the cooking's frightful. I don't suppose there'll be any Romanee-Conti. This is what always happens!"**

With only a few nights left together they spend the evening in Vienne. If only they had dined at La Pyramide. Fernand Point opened in late 1922 and surely would have been in the 1926 Michelin. Maybe not, yet so near and how valuable the description would now be.

As for the enjoyment and meaning of wine and food Stern makes the case fairly well: "There are moments in your life, not of massive importance, not determining your future this way or that, elusive to catch, and still more elusive to describe, which are nevertheless so complete in their utter rightness-every small accessory settling down into its place without hitch or angularity-that you feel, remembering such moments, a glow of gratitude."

*Who is who is not said and I have made assumptions.

**This is a little out of context.


Ten Company Histories and Biographies of Our Wine Pioneers  - *(see note for details)

Review by David Farmer

In the wine business 50 years is too short for reflection while one hundred years spans several generations and covers a wide variety of trading conditions. Companies that are still family owned and trading after 100 years are the rare survivors and it was at this point that most of them commissioned a company history. Many great contributors to the Australian wine history, and to single out one, Alexander Kelly's Tintara, did not survive for long and we know little about them. more...


Bouquet  - G. B. Stern
Alfred A Knoff, New York, Second printing, 1928 (First published June, 1927)
Review by David Farmer

I cannot recall how I got to know about Bouquet. I purchased a copy from a dealer on Amazon for $30.00. I read books like this to gain a better idea of how wine was thought about prior to say 1950-1960, before it exploded in popularity in the English speaking countries and turned perhaps a simpler pleasure into the scientifically studied beverage of today. more...


The House of Mondavi  - Julia Flynn Siler
Gotham Books, June 2007
Review by David Farmer

To build two large businesses in a lifetime is quite a feat but to do it in the wine business where it can take generations to become established requires outstanding talent. more...


What Can You Learn from Seven Centuries of Trade.
Sherry
 - Julian Jeffs
Faber and Faber Limited, London. First Edition, 1961. A revised second edition was published in 1970.
Review by David Farmer

Why would you want to read a book on an unfashionable drink like sherry? What would I find coming back to a book I first read in the mid 1970's? At the time of release it was much praised and subsequent editions came out in 1970 and 1978. more...


Notes on a Cellar Book  - George Saintsbury
Published in 1920 with numerous reprints. Reissued 1978 (Macmillan)
Review by David Farmer

This short book had an enormous impact on wine writing after publication in 1920 and was quoted extensively for the next two decades and was still referred to by wine writers in the 1960's. It may be seen as a forerunner of later books that taught you how to enjoy wine by personal reminiscing about wines and in this way guided readers through the maze of wine types and wine lore. more...


The Heartbreak Grape, A Journey in Search of the Perfect Pinot Noir  - Marq de Villiers
Harper Collins, 1993, Toronto, Canada
Review by David Farmer

Pinotphiles is the name given to consumers who are dedicated to the mysteries and flavour of pinot noir. No other grape variety has such a band of promoters and to satisfy their needs a dozen or so ‘pinot celebrations’ are held every few years in the old and newly emerging pinot regions. more...


The Romance of Wine  - H. Warner Allen
Ernest Benn Limited, London, 1931
Review by David Farmer

'When the Portuguese are really enjoying themselves, they sing and dance to a noise resembling that of a heavy bombardment, and in a festival in the mountains at Amarante I was completely deafened by the unceasing roar of about sixty sheepskin drums beaten furiously, broken by violent dynamite explosions.'

This is Warner Allen’s picture of the locals in the Douro region who enjoy letting off rockets with sticks of dynamite attached when celebrating. Any book that discovered a tradition like that has something interesting to say. more...


In Search of Wine, A tour of the Vineyards of France  - Charles Walter Berry
Constable and Company, 1935. Republished in 1987 by Sidgwick and Jackson
Review by David Farmer

In late 1934 Charles Walter Berry undertook an eight week tour through the vineyards of France and In Search of Wine is the record of what is considered a ‘famous’ journey. In the introduction to the 1987 reprint by Jancis Robinson, she notes that, ‘Walter made wine trade history by venturing into the cellars of those who supplied him,…in order to understand better the product he was selling and to survey, in unparalleled depth for the time, the French vignoble.’ more...


Ancient Wine, The Search for the Origins of Viniculture  - Patrick E. McGovern
Princeton University Press, 2003
Review by David Farmer

We do not know when humans first began to enjoy fermented wine beverages. Ancient Wine traces the origin of the deliberate making of alcohol back to the early Neolithic, about 7000 years ago. A seasonal or occasional drinking of alcoholic beverages probably goes back much further as many fruits collected in a container would ferment naturally. The current warm cycle of the ice age commenced about 10,000 years ago and this also marked a change, in a region of the Middle East, when humans turned from nomadic hunter gatherers to the first permanent settlements based around the cultivation of cereal crops. It is suggested that the earliest permanent settlements began in Eastern Turkey in the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. more...


In Praise of Wine  - Alec Waugh
1959, (Cassel)
Review by David Farmer

In Praise of Wine is a book of personal reminiscences about wine and follows the style of the educated amateurs who wrote before and immediately after the Second World War. This book though was published in 1959 and has crossed into an era in which wine books were beginning to contain detailed descriptions of wine regions and technical aspects of wine making, the forerunners of today’s large wine publishing industry. This in turn heralded the end of the amateur commentator. more...


Stay Me with Flagons  - Maurice Healy
Michael Joseph, 1949
Review by David Farmer

The English wine trade has given us many things, such as wine and food societies, a great depth of literature covering the descriptive and technical aspects of wine and wine regions, notably on French wine, a sophisticated wine auction system and more recently teaching schools such as the Masters of Wine. more...


The New France
A Complete Guide to Contemporary French Wine
 - Andrew Jefford
Mitchell Beazley 2002
Review by David Farmer

How strange to divide wine writers into a wine left or right. It will help you to enjoy the early chapters of this book if you have a soft left interpretation of the world wine industry, and enjoy railing against the globalisation of wine, the sameness of taste, the industrialisation of wine and a future driven by world wide brands. This book takes the proposition that the true way to make wine comes from those who bond with the ground, who work the vineyard night and day, break their backs, and by so doing achieve in almost a religious sense a bonding with the earth, the place and the wine produced. more...


You Heard It Through The Grapevine - Shattering the myths about the wine business  - Stuart Walton
Aurum Press, London, 2001
Review by David Farmer

There are a great many wine books written each year. The problem is that it is hard to come up with a new perspective to make a book stand out. The wine industry evolves slowly which means most books are derivative. In this case it would seem that the publishers asked for a book that reveals the hidden secrets of a business that some may see as being full of mystery, hence the sub title of this book. more...


The Classic Book on Cocktails
The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks
 - David Embury
the first edition was in America in 1948 and Faber and Faber published the first British edition in 1953
Review by David Farmer

Some books give you such pleasure that you always want them nearby. And in my adventures into drinks no book has impressed me as much or given me more pleasure than this masterpiece on the art of making cocktails.

There are dozens of books about making cocktails, rather like there are about food, but few are worth the cover price. None approach the quality of this classic book. more...


Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate, and Culture in the Making of French Wines  - James Wilson
Mitchell Beazley 1998
Review by David Farmer

Any vineyard owner will tell you that certain areas of their vineyard make better tasting grapes than other areas. Why some areas of vineyards and vineyard districts deliver better grapes and hence better wine is the subject of terroir studies. The Europeans and particularly the French are very interested in this topic. They extend the meaning of the word which we can roughly say is the flavour effects that come from the vineyard location to include cultural ideas which unite man with the soil. more...


Penfolds-The Rewards of Patience  - Andrew Caillard M.W.
(Fifth Edition)
Review by David Farmer

In the simplest term this is a consumers guide to all the Penfolds red and white wines. The tasting notes cover wines made by Penfolds in the 1950's right through to the current releases. There are tasting notes for every wine, apart from the Rawsons Retreat wines, the Koonunga Hill whites and one or two others which I detect the winemakers wish they did not have to make under the Penfolds banner. Others wines such as the Penfolds Old Vine Semillon which were part of edition 4 have been dropped off. more...


Classification of Australian Wines  - Dan Murphy
Macmillan 1974
Review by David Farmer

I’m a bit of a collector of wine books and recently purchased a first edition signed by Dan Murphy and by the great Hunter vigneron Max Lake. It cost $20.00 from the Berkelouw bookstore on Oxford Street, Sydney, where I buy a lot of second-hand wine books. I first read this book in 1975. Back then it was seen as a bold attempt to classify Australian vineyards and wines in a hierarchical system similar to the French appellation classification. It was a very useful book. Thirty years on it acts as a timepiece and is worth reviewing to see how the wine industry has evolved. more...


Real Wine - The Rediscovery of Natural Winemaking  - Patrick Matthews
Mitchell Beazley 2000
Review by David Farmer

This is one of a number of wine books published over the last few years, mostly by English authors, which take the view that there is a correct way to make wine and this is only known and followed by a small number of dedicated winemakers. The core of the argument is that big company winemaking produces ‘industrial’ wines and these lack character, while true wine is made by the artisanal wine maker using tools and methods, often ancient, which reflect the unique character of the site. more...


Ten Company Histories and Biographies of Our Wine Pioneers  - *(see note for details)

Review by David Farmer

In the wine business 50 years is too short for reflection while one hundred years spans several generations and covers a wide variety of trading conditions. Companies that are still family owned and trading after 100 years are the rare survivors and it was at this point that most of them commissioned a company history. Many great contributors to the Australian wine history, and to single out one, Alexander Kelly's Tintara, did not survive for long and we know little about them. more...



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