Perfumes and Wines: parallelisms between the two worlds

Author: Redazione Date: 7 June '23 Category: Perfume World

There are several factors that make the parallels between perfumery and enology undeniable. In both worlds, it is the sense of smell that takes centre stage and opens up to us a universe of intricate aromas and sensory delights. It is through our olfactory experience that we embark on a journey of discovery, where scents and wines intertwine, creating an enchanting symphony for our senses.

The very work of a perfumer’s nose and that of a sommelier show remarkable similarities. The art of perfumery consists in the skilful mastery of creating captivating fragrances. A Nose meticulously blends different fragrant notes, just as a sommelier carefully selects and combines different grape varieties to produce exceptional wines. Both professions require a deep knowledge of raw materials and a keen sense of creativity. The perfumer’s palette, for example, consists of essential oils, absolutes and synthetic aromatic compounds, while the sommelier’s arsenal includes grapes, barrels and a wide range of winemaking techniques.

The process of evaluating perfumes and wines similarly follows a structured approach. Perfumers and sommeliers rely on their acute senses to discern the complexity of their creations. They use a combination of memory, intuition and technical know-how to identify the individual components of the blend. Perfumers distinguish between top, middle and base notes, just as sommeliers identify primary, secondary and tertiary aromas in a glass of wine. Both professionals boast an unique ability to unravel layers of scents or flavours, revealing hidden nuances that others might overlook.

Olfactory memory within oenology

The odorous molecules of wine, found in sufficient quantity to be perceived, flow through the nostrils until they reach the olfactory epithelium, which is activated, sending the stimulus linked to sensory perception to the brain.

At this point, the brain will search the olfactory memory database for the image associated with that smell, such as cherry, plum, cinnamon, etc. If it does not find a corresponding image, we are unable to name the scent we perceive, but this does not necessarily mean that we did not actually sense it, simply that we did not recognise it. In fact, if we have no knowledge of a particular smell, i.e. if it is not present in our olfactory memory, it will be impossible to recognise it in the glass and it will be confused with others or mistaken for something similar.

Why is it that one person is able to recognise more aromas in wine than another? First of all, to find something, it is essential to know what you are looking for. If I look for scents of white flowers in a red wine, I am unlikely to find them.
Secondly, the capacity for sensory perception varies from person to person, also depending on age. An older person will have a lower receptive capacity, but will still have a much larger database of scents. To put together this database, the only way is to train our olfactory memory, trying to memorise the scents present in nature and then recognise them in the wine we are tasting. Just as happens when we smell a fragrance.

Smell and taste: a harmonious fusion

The art of matching scents and wines offers a fascinating exploration of the interaction between smell and taste. When we taste a glass of wine, we often unconsciously engage our sense of smell as aromas waft from the glass and influence our perception of flavour. This connection is no accident: both the olfactory and taste systems share intricate neural pathways that intertwine. The marriage of the two senses creates a multi-sensory experience, enhancing overall pleasure.

In the world of perfumery, fragrance families such as floral, citrus, woody or oriental evoke specific emotions and associations. Similarly, wines possess distinct aromatic profiles, ranging from fruity and floral to earthy and spicy. The parallels between these aroma families and wine descriptors allow us to make comparisons and create a common language of appreciation. Just as we can describe a wine with hints of blackberry, leather or vanilla, we can associate these hints with specific perfume notes, facilitating the understanding and exploration of both realms.

Also important is the concept of terroir, often attributed to wine, which also finds resonance in the world of perfumery. Terroir encompasses the unique characteristics of a specific geographical area, including soil composition, climate and oenological traditions. Likewise, perfumers look for raw materials from specific regions, recognising that the same botanical species can produce different scents depending on the terroir. Whether it is the aroma of lavender from Provence or the heady scent of jasmine from Grasse, the influence of terroir adds depth and complexity to both wines and perfumes.

Exploring the connection between perfume and wine not only enhances our understanding of the craftsmanship behind each art form but also invites us to delve into the fascinating realm of our olfactory experience. Whether we find ourselves caught up in the delicate notes of a perfume or savouring the complex flavour of a fine wine, the connection of these two worlds reminds us of the power of our senses to transport us to extraordinary places and evoke deep emotions. So, let us raise a glass and inhale deeply, embracing the harmonious dance of scent and taste, for a journey that promises discovery and endless sensory pleasure.

Would you like to learn more about the world of smell and its power?