How awful when someone shows up at a serious dinner wearing strong scent. As most of us know, perfume interferes with a wine’s aroma. Despite this, they share many characteristics in common.
Like perfume, wine has top notes, middle notes, and base notes. Wine can be infinitely complex in the same way as perfume and, when a special bottle is being served, needs to be approached with the same close attention.
Wine does have certain qualities not shared by perfume. As wine ages, its heart becomes more volatile and presents itself sooner. In younger wines, the heart may hide, at least until the wine has been aerated by being allowed to breath or by being decanted. If an old wine is aerated too long, its heart may volatilize and evaporate like a top note. If you don’t smell the wine quickly, the heart is lost and the wine is said to be faded.
When the wine touches our tongue, we may first notice tannin, alcohol, or acid. These three constitute the structure of the wine, a sort of frame that contains the wine’s fruit, where the heart notes are found.
Acid in wine is analogous to greenness and tang in perfume. Tannin, which feels rough in the mouth, evokes base notes, especially very dry materials, sometimes described as “choking.” Animal notes are often found within the fruit of the wine. These correspond with musks and leather notes (think castoreum and tobacco).
Like perfume, wine can smell like virtually anything, even rank things. But strangely, even normally-repugnant smells, when discreet, can be appealing if balanced with other aromas and if they enter into the wine’s or perfume’s total complex.
Oud is one of the most complex-smelling ingredients we know. Complexity in wine is etched into fruit; complexity in oud is etched into wood.