Cookbook Review: Bouquet by G.B. Stern

by Deanna Dong
Photos courtesy of G.B. Stern; Book cover courtesy of Hsinping Pan
April 2012

Bouquet, by G.B. Stern

Publication Details:
First published by Chapman and Hall Ltd. in 1927. A limited edition was republished by Good Dirt 2011 and includes a glossary of French terms.

About the Author:
G.B. Stern (1890–1973) was a respected British author who wrote many novels, biographies, short stories, plays, and literary criticisms. Her literary circle included Noel Coward, Virginia Woolf, and Rebecca West.

Journey Itinerary:
The quartet travels from Provence to the Rhône, cross Massif Central to Bordeaux, up the Loire Valley to Burgandy, and then finish at Avignon.

Wines Tasted on Tour:
Lafite Rothschild 1914 & 1924, Mouton-Rothschild 1917, Latour 1887, 1914 & 1918, Margaux 1899, 1924 & 1925, Petrus 1913. See full list.

One of Wine Writer Alice Feiring’s favorite wine books, Bouquet, details the adventures of two wine-loving British couples who traverse across France in the 1920s, visiting vineyards and learning about wine. Author—and participant—G.B. Stern writes with honesty and humor about the memorable vintages and culinary characters encountered as her group moved through Côtes du Rhône, Hermitage, Burgundy, and Bordeaux.

The quartet’s passion for everything gourmet is evident, with an itinerary built squarely around meals (with some light sight-seeing sprinkled halfheartedly along the way). Reading about one extravagant multi-course meal after another, sometimes two in one day and each served with multiple “shottled” wines (the group’s clever abbreviation for “chateau bottled”), we alternate between bouts of jealousy and vicarious heartburn.

The story’s crescendo centers on an age-old wine argument: which is superior, Burgundy or Bordeaux? The couples are stubbornly divided, eager to prove each other wrong with a secret-weapon bottle (a Château Margaux 1899 versus a Romanée-Conti 1919). Stern’s enthusiasm for wine overflows, but she doesn’t take it all too seriously.

Group — without Johnny —at Château Yquem The hill of Hermitage

At times, she concedes to lacking confidence in her palate, finds wine descriptions such as “gun-flinty” and “chewed grass” to be silly, and even admits mid-tour to needing a break from wine consumption. Beyond gastronomical observations, Stern also offers quips on random subjects, including the poor quality of British hospitality, her love of the Michelin guidebooks, and the French’s (often lowly) perception of Brits. Beautifully bound in a cloth cover, Bouquet is a wonderful book for anyone who wants to experience Stern’s unbridled joy for food, wine, and travel.

The limited edition of Bouquet is distributed by eatdrink.co, an online company founded by Wine Expert Paul Wasserman, son of Wine Broker Becky Wasserman, with the goal of curating thoughtful gifts for food and wine lovers.