“The Noses” of Oenology and Perfumery

#LoveProvence Blog Demystifying Wine

During our visit to the Fragonard perfume factory in Grasse, we were quite impressed by the similarities between creating perfumes and creating wines.  It’s especially poignant in the art of blending Provence rosés, which are incredibly technical to make.

Our oenologists can sometimes taste up to 2 or 3 hundred different tanks of freshly fermented wine, and will meticulously identify which ones are perfect for our blends. It’s awe-inspiring that their palates are so well-defined that they are able to differentiate the subtle nuances between 20 tanks of Grenache, for instance. One tank may be good for the backbone, while another will add a lovely fresh acidity, or a specific floral or fruity note. In this way, they are able to recreate the styles each year that we recognise and love.

A good tip for improving our tasting ability, is to follow the professional example of slurping with one’s mouth slightly open. By keeping the channel open between our nose and mouth, we’re able to detect a lot more, because our sense of smell has a huge influence on our sense of taste. Should I say it takes a lot of practice? What fun research ;-)

Developing their olfactory senses is essential to both professions, where they are required to identify natural raw materials. Perfumers also need to sensory identify chemical raw materials. Both transform these elements into compositions depicting certain appearances, textures and smells. Oenologists ensure their bottled wines of deliciousness are delivered to us in the most stable way. Perfumers have the same challenges, but also need to ensure regulatory conformity when their perfumes are used in other products, like soaps, cremes, gels, etc.

Perfumers are affectionately referred to as “Le Nez” or “The Nose” and seeing the so-called perfume organ during our visit to the perfume factory, I was reminded of the little kits called “Le Nez de Vin” that we have in the boutique with fragrant essences that are used for identifying aromas. It struck me that our oenologists could just as easily be referred to in the same way.

We often use these little kits during winetastings in the boutique. It’s such fun seeing how the aromas are so familiar, yet we just can’t identify them and then when we’re told what it is, “A-ha, but of course!” We almost feel silly not being able to identify such a basic aroma. Yet when we consider how intensive the training perfumers and oenologists have, with their strong backgrounds in organic chemistry, plant biology and other sciences, it’s comforting to know that we don’t need to pit ourselves unrealistically against gold-medal winners.

The more I learn, the more respect I have for these incredible professions. I hope that with each sip of a quality rosé, or whiff of a fabulous perfume, that we can all appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship behind the work of “The Noses”.

Enjoy this short video of our factory tour to Fragonard, which was preceded by visiting the flower farm Le Domaine de Manon.

You might also find it interesting to know that there is even a course at the Perfumery School in Grasse on the similarities between perfumery and oenology called Wine and Fragrance.

The author: Victoria Koning

Victoria enjoys travel, writing, photography and has oodles of IT experience (technical & software support, web design and online marketing). Born in Cape Town, she worked in Johannesburg, lived in the Netherlands and now calls Cotignac home (see Tours and Tales.com). Inspired by "following a dream" Victoria loves sharing the Mirabeau story and fab wines. Having Dutch as a second language is surprisingly useful.

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