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Joelle Thomson's online wine guide

Category: Book reviews

Marlborough Man: a new book

Shocking, fascinating and unputdownable books are hard to come by so it is great to find that the new biography of Allan Scott provides all three ingredients of a rollocking tale of a new wine region, Marlborough.

Even the name of the book is sure to cause controversy among the many who would lay claim to being the first to plant grapes, build a winery, plunge a tank or sell a global success story. But Allan Scott’s humour and candid honesty shine through in this book.

He confess that the book’s title is “a bit of a joke”, adding that: “It’s one that no wine drinkers are in on, yet seemingly everyone in New Zealand’s wine industry loves to tell. Several Kiwis who have made their living – or their fortunes – from fermented grape juice are all too happy to portray themselves as the Marlborough Man…”

And regardless of all who may wish to claim the name, Scott’s stories certainly lend the book’s title plenty of street cred’. He was there when the  first vines were planted (many of them upside down, so they died). He was there when Cloudy Bay Winery began (and brokered the deal for the land). He was there when the Stoneleigh brand came into existence and his take on  these stories – and more – make this book one of the most honest, refreshing reads ever published about the foundation stones of the modern New Zealand wine industry.

Tales of new vineyards, big brands, private jets and extravagant living are intermingled with stories of those who got their hands and feet dirty right at the start of Marlborough’s dramatic conversion from farming to grape growing.

The book is a collaboration with North American journalist Eric Arnold, who once worked vintage at Allan Scott Wines and wrote his own book, First Crush, as a result.

This story is all Scott’s, however, and it starts at the kitchen table over a difficult discussion with Cathy, his wife, who looked uncomfortably at him about a decision they were about to take and came to regret. In typical Scott style, they learnt from their mistake, changed course and began again, but the beauty is in the reading, so I won’t divulge details here.

If you’re looking for a holiday read or a book for the wine lover in your life, Allan Scott lives up to the name Marlborough Man in his eponymous new biography, published this month in time for the silly season. It opens a few cans of controversial worms and, knowing many of those in the book, I can only say that the whole thing rings true. It’s a great story of humble beginnings, romance and big business.

Marlborough Man by Allan Scott and Eric Arnold is published by HarperCollins NZ, RRP $59.99.

Secrets and science of scent

Book review: The Secret of Scent, Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell by Luca Turin was published in 2006 by Faber and Faber.

While this book is not newly published, it is a fresh arrival on my shelf from The Book Depository, thanks to a recommendation from Master of Wine Stephen Wong, who suggested it would be a fascinating read. He’s right.

Author Luca Turin lifts the lid on what makes the perfume industry tick and writes with the skill of a novelist rather than a man with a PhD in biophysics from the University of London. As chief technical officer of Flexitral, he used his theory of smell and aroma to design new fragrances, flavour molecules and to develop his own theory about how we smell what we smell, which is exactly what makes this book such a fascinating read.

He does relate aromas to wine, but this book takes a wider view of nature and human intervention. This particularly comes home to roost in his discussion of the fragile nature of natural aroma molecules, such as rose, when compared to the more stable artificially created aroma molecules.

I have yet to arrive at the link between memory and sex, the smell alphabet and how molecules are made, but these subjects, among others, add to the multi layered  intrigue of a book that is already proving to be a spell binding, science based and beautifully crafted read.

I am hooked and am sure that anyone with a genuine interest in aroma will be likewise.

The Secret of Scent is available online from The Book Depository.

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