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
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
So should no service person ever wear any cologne or
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
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.