The Mountain Times

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Frangrants of wine and perfume

The common wisdom is that wine and perfume do not mix, but perhaps they can?

'A masculine aroma that has top notes of sage, orange, lemon; blends into carnation, cinnamon, jasmine, geranium and heliotrope; and finishes with vanilla, cedar wood, frankincense, musk.' While this sounds clean and refreshing, it does not describe wine but aftershave.

Old Spice, it says, leaves a man feeling invigorated and refreshed. This enticing, timeless classic, recommended for daily use, has enjoyed a loyal fan base for many generations.

Other aftershaves also include notes of bergamot and violet leaves, a heart of a spicy accord of black tea, pimento and cinnamon; a base of olive wood, musk, tobacco leaves and myrrh. Or a fresh spicy fragrance that will surely make any man feel irresistible has notes of mandarin, rosemary, bergamot, violet leaf and leads to nutmeg, spearmint, incense, while finishing with cypress, amber wood, guava and sandalwood.

How about a sexy manly fragrance that includes grapefruit blending into licorice? Or the flowery, heavy and woody scent of orris, finishing off with vanilla, saffron and sandalwood?

Perfume and wine tend to live worlds apart according to one of the very first lessons a wine taster learns. A sommelier will tell you not to wear strong perfume while tasting wines, since the strong fragrance of perfume distracts from the bouquet of hidden aromas in wine. The common wisdom is that wine and perfume do not mix, especially in a restaurant setting where the server's fragrances could dominate the entire table.

One of the first ideas the novice wine drinker is introduced to is the opinion that perfume and all of its cousins, eau de toilette, cologne, deodorant and such, are stated enemies in the appreciation of wine. This unquestioned principle dictates to avoid any and all aromas that may conflict with the illusive olfactory properties of wine.

So should no service person ever wear any cologne or perfume?

As a wine taster I certainly cherish the chance to smell the wine in my glass rather than the fragrances of the environment, be it personal hygiene, stuffy air circulation or other strong smells emanating from potpourri on the stove or cleaning products. But that does not necessarily mean that all fragrances will conflict with your olfactory experience meeting the first pour of a wine that will be your sensory friend over the next course of the dinner.

A little hint of aftershave or a dab of perfume may actually enhance the experience.

In fact there are several winemakers and perfumers who have made wines inspired by perfumes or the other way around.

Wine and perfume have too many things in common to be ignored. In both cases the olfactory sense plays the key role, both adhere to the notion of 'terroir,' and both undergo a process of transformation before presenting their final aromas.

A way to combine these opposite ends into a harmonizing combination does actually exist. There are wine-flavored perfumes available that challenge the age-old wisdom that perfume affects a wine's bouquet. If you take a close look at essential oils, you will encounter a lot of similarities. For example a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc will usually bring pronounced notes of grapefruit, gooseberry, freshly cut grass or hay, often combined with fresh green apple, all of which could also be describing a perfume or cologne. Finding a match can be as simple or complicated as finding the right pairing of wine and food.

A good perfume needs not to hinder the bouquet or aromas in the wine, rather it can complement them. Notes of honeydew, vanilla crème and toasted oak should work well with Chardonnay; while hints of heavy musky leather, summer berries and black peppercorn are essential notes of a rich Syrah.

Yet there is no need to seek out a 'perfume sommelier' to get advice for the perfect fragrance. Just use a bit of common sense next time you head for a wine party and match fragrances on the labels for a complimentary experience. The trick is to be subtle and not to overdo it.

Tagged: Wine, Wine Experiments