Biodynamics, Wine and Whole Ingredient Perfumery
by RACHEL BINDER
For years I worked in the culinary world- as a server, a sommelier, as a manager. One thing that has always been a professional standard is that you don’t wear perfume while working near food and wine. In fact, if you wear scent during your sommelier exam you automatically fail the service portion of your test.
What grows together grows together
One spring I was lucky enough to have a Barolo tasting that changed my life. It was spring and the patio we were tasting on was covered in jasmine- that pink sweet jasmine that takes over my home town of Venice Beach at certain times a year. The Barolo just seemed to taste and smell with more beauty and nuance with that aromatic addition of (the jasmine) nature!
Especially notable since jasmine grows so beautifully in Italy where the Nebbiolo grapes of Barolo grow.
It was an aha moment for me because I realized that if you follow the guiding principles of wine pairing you understand that what grows together grows together. So why do we not do perfume and wine pairings? Often that is because synthetic scents don’t grow with nebbiolo grapes, pinot noir grapes or anything else. They are isolated in a lab even if they had a natural beginning. They no longer contain that beating heart of nature but there is also a more assertive sillage to molecules made in a lab (even “natural” isolates) that prevents ones ability to fully smell and taste food and wine to its fullest capacity.
Why does that “beating heart of nature” matter when it comes to perfume and wine?
For me it goes back to the principals of Rudolph Steiner (who began the modern biodynamics movement in regenerative farming) and biodynamics. As someone who tasted wine and also directed wine tastings and winemaker dinners for years I have experienced on so many occasions how the biodynamic calendar and its “fruit and flowers days” (which are based on the moon and the tides) can fully impact a tasting and how people experience scent and taste. Even the most hardened not natural seeming sommeliers will pull up the biodynamic calendar to see how their wine is going to show on a given day.
This works with wine because it is still a living, evolving whole ingredient ageable aromatic of nature. These principals do not work with items or ingredients that are so processed they no longer belong to this living cycle- a traditional designer fragrance is the same day after day. It does not evolve in time nor does it have the energetic imprint that is offered with a truly natural perfume. For this reason I started doing perfume and wine pairings with natural perfume and ingredients to help demonstrate to people the living difference that is possible with truly natural perfume.
A society whose noses have been dulled by a false sense of smell
There is something remarkable that happens when you pair a hydrosdistilled jasmine with a rose wine that has a floral component. First you smell and then you taste so many different levels of what these incredible gifts of nature have to offer. It becomes crystal clear that something different is happening with a natural perfume than we have learned to expect from a synthetic when we allow it to be experienced with retronasal olfaction (nose and taste buds). There are layers of scent and taste that are unlocked that can entirely bewitch and help shift ones appreciation of these natural beauties.
So many products that people use are scented with synthetics that are louder than our natural environment. Before someone even applies a synthetic scent they have quite literally been nose blinded by all of the other products they have applied to their bodies (shampoo, body lotion, cleaning products, fabric softener). It has led to a society whose noses have been dulled by a false sense of smell. Many of us have forgotten what real flowers or soil smells like because the idea of the fake one has taken over.
Go to the farmers market
So here is my pairing challenge! Go to the farmers market (if you have one nearby) and pick out some fruit that is in season, your favorite whole ingredient natural perfume or essential oil and grab some rose wine. Sit down and breathe in each of the aromatics, drink the wine and eat that beautiful fruit. I find it to be transcendent to experience these things together. From a sensory point of view this is a great tool of education on the possibilities of returning to the beauty that was one experienced with all perfume before they were taken from the earth and rebirthed in a lab.
All over the world people are finding ways to help combat global warming with regenerative farming but I think the natural perfume world has an opportunity to help people remember what it is we are fighting for: the native plants uncommonly utilized, the beauty of biodiversity, and the possibility of a rebirth of how we experience and share aromatics.
Black Tea and Rose Rose Sangria.
It’s rose (wine) season and so many are being released this time of year!
I recommend trying this with a deeper rose (think Bordeaux varietals, or an Italian, Spanish or Chilean rose).
All sangrias or punches may work differently depending on wine choice - a little citrus like a splash of blood orange always works great!