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Greatness from the Cooler South East













Perfumes the Guide  - Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez
Profile Books, London, 2008
Review by David Farmer

Alice Normal visited Tanunda a few years back and searching for a suitable gift I explored a local second-hand store which was packed with unusual bits and pieces.

Since Ms Normal is an extreme op shopper with a proven talent for unearthing gold amongst the rubbish of a run-down, small town, community store I was under pressure to deliver. And there it was for $3.00, a vintage bottle of the perfume Hypnotique in its original packaging.

A quick search revealed I had hit gold: "Hypnotique was first introduced in the 1950's by Max Factor 'for the woman born to enchant men'." The description on the Timeless Perfume site continued; "Hypnotique was one of the most popular perfumes in the USA during the fifties. Heavily advertised as having hypnotic power over men to make them 'concentrate, concentrate, concentrate on you alone'."


Hypnotique found in a local second-hand store for $3.00

We know that the sense of smell is very important in enjoying wine, indeed the smell and the taste we are told are locked together and there may not be a lot to the taste if you cannot smell. Hence critics and judges pay a lot of attention to the aroma of a wine in forming an opinion about the quality.

For consumers the aromas of wine are so appealing that over the last two decades an industry has developed around supplying specially designed glasses which enhance the aroma.

Thus when 'Perfumes the Guide' was released it created interest with wine critics and is reviewed here because it is a great and useful book with an obvious connection to wine.


The authors Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez

This guide dates the start of the modern fragrance industry to the 1870s with the production of the first synthetic chemicals and specifically the use of coumarin, which was manufactured in 1868. In 1882, "Paul Parquet used this in Houbigants Fougere Royale which marks the true beginning of modern perfumery".

An immense flowering followed with the creation of numerous new synthetic scents adding to the range of natural ingredients. This accompanied the rise of the famous fragrance houses whose names are synonymous with this art.

Indeed most of the book is a review of what is available in the market and these are graded with one to five stars.

I needed to purchase a back-up to Hypnotique so I searched the five star reviews of which there were 23.

Thinking of the personality of Ms Normal I settled for Mitsouke (Guerlain) but also thought the following would be suitable reserves:
Apres L'Ondee (Guerlain),
Osmanthe Yunnan (Hermes),
Vol de Nuit (Guerlain),
Calyx (Prescriptives),
Eau Sauvage (Dior),
and Jicky (Guerlain).

A trip to David Jones (Adelaide) to buy one of these five star perfumes produced incredulous expressions of; 'where have you been the last 20 years' and all-round mirth at my expense while I was sprayed with fragrances bearing the name of one celebrity or another in metallic embossing.

Fortunately I had 'Perfumes the Guide' for backup and to one excited well dressed women bearing gifts saying, 'she will love this' I turned to page 25 and read aloud the authors thoughts about this type of fragrance;

"..the fragrance for men and women who do not like fragrance and suspect that none of their friends do either. The result has been a slew of apologetic, bloodless, gray, whippet-like, shivering little things that are probably impossible, and certainly pointless, to tell apart. .....This is the stuff for the generic guy wishing to meet a generic girl to have generic offspring."

I did learn I had dated as perfumes and fragrances are part of a fast moving culture where what is new is what sells while classics of another time do not make the registers ring.

Next I went to the Guerlain counter where I was told that the styles of years ago can be ordered but would take three months or so to arrive though they were for sale in the shop on the Champs Elysees. They also found a bottle of Mitsouke.


Selecting a perfume means matching it with the personality. Alice Normal loves Mitsouke.

Here are some examples to show the flavour of this remarkable work:

"As with the tawdriest pop melody, there is a base pleasure in perfume, in just about any perfume, even the cheapest and the most starved of ideas, that is better than no perfume at all".

The second mistake women make when choosing a fragrance, "... is to assume that the reason to wear perfume is to impersonate a flower bed. This is a fine strategy if your aim is to attract bees."

"What has changed, and not for the better, is the shift from symphony to jingle. If to pursue a musical analogy, the smell of your fabric softener is a door chime and the first Diorama a full orchestra, fine fragrance is getting dangerously close to a ringtone...."

And this reminder of sauvignon blanc. "Linalool (lavender), geraniol (rose), citral (lemon) are the staples of ‘fresh’ perfumery, the sort that are accompanied in ads by the noise of rushing water. They sell great, feel good and have no pretensions."

And several quotes from the 315 pages of reviews:

Amouage Gold (Amouage)
"...a hundred flying carpets of scent overlapping each other".

Arpege (Lanvin)
"...most classic feminine's undergo breast reduction at each reformulation, and partly due to the outrageous, borderline-slutty girliness of many modern feminines, which makes the ladylike masterpieces of an earlier age seem positively virile."

Beyond Paradise (Estee Lauder)
"But realistic florals, though they may be achievements, should really be judged by a panel of bees rather than humans. Women have no business smelling like flowers".
Note this perfume, a symphonic floral, is given a five star rating and the comment is directed at other fragrances.

I found many other interesting ideas in the introductory section such as 'top notes' or sets of chemicals that shout louder than others and I have a feeling the enhancement of some wine varieties will head in this direction perhaps created from yeast cultures or genetic modification.

The development of new varieties by breeding is the long road these days and with faster methods who knows how grapes can be altered which made the knowledge that fragrances are 90% by weight synthetic and more by price being perhaps an indicator of the new world of wine. In case you have wondered naturals are very expensive, perhaps 10 times the price of synthetics.

Knowing that, "Many musks, ambers, several lemons, and at least two crucial lily-of-the-valley components are not found in nature", makes the mind spin with possibilities. Though it was pleasing to know that, "Naturals are more interesting as they are not pure - and may have hundreds of molecules".

There have been many recent advances in understanding how we smell and as you might expect the genetics common to us all mean your top note may well be someone else's sour note. Though these intriguing and difficult scientific concepts are rightly I think not covered by this book.

What Perfumes is, is an indispensable buying guide which will save you from making serious errors. If selecting wine seems all too confusing please take a deep breath before you venture into the land of perfumes and take the hint by arming yourself with this wonderful book.


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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