One of the great vinous passions in my life is sweet wine. The uninitiated or unconverted look askance at it, which is their loss, because there are some amazingly exciting wines out there. If you remain to be convinced think of these things as a dessert in their own right, and treat them as such - a small glass of something very good is an excellent way to finish off a meal, and lighter than an actual pudding. Sweet wine also really loves cheese.
The way we talk about wine and perfume has a lot common, which isn't surprising as it's your sense of smell that you really rely on to evaluate wine - nosing it is at least half the pleasure of drinking something good. And Noble One smells great.
Catherine Maxwell's 'Scents & Sensibility: Perfume in Victorian Literary Culture' (published by Oxford) is a long overdue exploration of Victorian literature through scent. I get the same frisson of excitement whenever I meet a familiar perfume or wine in a book, because suddenly there's the chance to make another connection, and to immerse yourself deeper in the text through the senses of smell and taste.
This is particularly interesting in Victorian literature because of their complicated and evolving relationship with perfume, and cosmetics generally. Scent is a shorthand for all sorts of things, so Maxwell's help in decoding what it means is fascinating. It's a thoroughly scholarly work (complete with splendidly academic chapter titles) that covers a whole range of writers from the canonical to the frankly obscure. It is also the perfect book for anyone who loves scent and Victorian literature (two of my favourite things), if I didn't already have a copy it would be top of my Christmas wish list.