Tuesday, 26 November 2019 13:00

What’s a perfume lover to do about wine?

Written by  Lee Suckling

It's okay to embrace wearing fragrances when tasting wine, despite what others say. Lee Suckling explains.

OPINION: Perfume and wine hit many of the same senses, so it figures that in being a wine-drinker I’m also an avid wearer of fragrance. Fragrance, like wine, all starts with the nose.

Yet when you start out wine tasting, one of the first things you’re told is to avoid wearing fragrance. It will distort the aromas and leave you unable to appreciate what you’re drinking. 

The two don’t need to be mutually exclusive, though. Wine and fragrance are equally emotive pleasures in life. I experience the same sense of joy in holding a bottle of fragrance and spraying it on myself as I do unscrewing a bottle of wine and getting that first sip. Naturally, wine and fragrance are both luxury products that are considered bourgeoisie necessities. It doesn’t feel right to be forced to choose between one or the other. 

Oenophiles and perfume enthusiasts are the same target market. They are equal in customer behaviour in terms of purchasing power based on brand recognition and emotional responses to packaging. Both have dispensable income and like the feeling of being “treated”. 

Both are aspirational, and choose products because they make them feel a certain way that perhaps they don’t feel day-to-day. Like the adage, “dress for the job you want, not the one you have”, people buy both wine and perfume because of the message they want to send the world about them. That isn’t always who they feel like all the time on the inside. 

When you’re an equal lover of both wine and fragrance, it’s obviously polite to refrain from wafting into a wine tasting event smelling like a barrel of Chanel No. 5. If wine is being judged, this is fair. It would be like turning up to a cake-baking competition with pockets full of chocolate biscuits. However, when attending amateur wine-tasting events at restaurants, bars, wineries, and stores, depriving yourself of personal fragrance is unnecessary. 

Here’s why. The world is full of scents. Wine tasting doesn’t happen in a sealed, sterile room used for scientific practices. It exists in the real world, amongst kitchens, other fragrant alcohols, and people who emit their own natural smells. External scents are unavoidable and to say that a wine palate will be ruined by them is, frankly, the kind of pompous behaviour the modern wine industry is trying to distance itself from. You wouldn’t go to the Italian coast during the summer and complain that the smell of hot citrus trees and sea air ruin the experience of drinking your Fiorduva Costa d’Amalfi, now would you? 

In saying this, there’s a discreet way to wear fragrance at wine tastings and formal events where wine is there to really be appreciated. Floral scents don’t work, and vanilla is too sugary sweet when you’re ingesting something else. I personally like scents of smoke, tobacco, and wood, and these three are all unobtrusive in wine drinking. In fact, they’re complimentary. When applied subtly to the neck or wrist only, fragrances like Tom Ford’s Oud Wood or Leather Ombré work with wine, not against it. These scents help you relax and prepare yourself for the enjoyment of a grape-based beverage. 

I encourage anyone to experiment with different fragrances and different wines in their tasting journey. Champagne and other sparkling wines are particularly good matches for perfume, as their citrus finds each other in the room. Something like Armani’s Sí really respects a bubbly like cava, while a few spritzes of Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino go perfectly with an actual Aperol Spritz. 

Wine and fragrance are here to inspire us. They’re both made from the finest ingredients, and are luxurious, imaginative, and passionate. Push aside old rules about wine tasting etiquette and find the middle ground between enjoying both of these pleasures simultaneously. Debating we shouldn’t wear fragrance while wine tasting is akin to arguing how people should hold wine glasses. Every individual’s interaction will inherently change the wine and we should all be OK with that. 

More like this

Strategies at play

Former Fonterra Shareholders Council chairman and Waipu farmer Simon Couper looks at the strategies of Fonterra's competitors to see how the co-op can strengthen its own strategies.

» Latest Print Issues Online


Perfect pivots — Editorial

Perfect pivots — Editorial

Misha Wilkinson’s description of “pirouetting” through Covid-19 seems apt, given the industry’s need to stay on its toes throughout this…

Save our soils — Editorial

Save our soils — Editorial

There’s been something of a makeover in New Zealand vineyards in recent years, as the clean-cut look of sprayed rows…

Popular Reads

Wineries set for seismic shakes

Four years after the Kaikōura earthquake, Marlborough wineries are far better prepared for a big shake, says structural engineer Will…