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Essential Oils – Altering Taste Profiles & Wine Pairings

Did you know that there are other ways of enhancing the flavour of wines other than ageing? We tried a trick (some of you may call it cheating or straight up terrible, but we’re adventurous that way) of using the scent of essential oils to alter the taste profile of wines! We figured that they would be something similar to how food pairings would alter our appreciation of a particular wine. In this article, we summarise our experience, and our feedback

If you’re lazy to read through the whole thing, here’s our key takeaways: Essential oils, done right, don’t interfere, but enhance the taste notes of wines to your liking, but enhancing those notes with complementary oils. A summary of our experience…

  1. It was a fun experience, but there were only some with noticeable differences and when it came to oil blends it was hard to figure it out what particular chemical in different scents were altering the taste profile positively or negatively
  2. General rule go with what is complementary between the 2 and always stick to what you like. Similar to food pairings, 2 bad notes can’t make a good cocktail
  3. Probably not something we will do regularly, but was interesting to experiment. This is probably something for essential oil enthusiasts to try
What We Did

Together with some friends, we grabbed a couple of bottles of lovely and had a night of mixing and matching. Armed with coffee beans and a tonne of water, we paired essential oils that we believed would be complementary, and contrasting, with our wines. 

First, we would have a sip of the wine to remember its original profile. Following which, we took a whiff of the essential oil, followed by a sip of wine. After going around the table (it was very hard to hold in our distaste when we didn’t like the “pairing”), we would rate how the oil affected the wine.

We did this with 3 main wines; The Paladin Salbanello, Ai Galli Pinot Grigio, and the Donnafugata Anthilia Sicilia.

There were too many essential oils to name them all, but they covered the various popular note profiles for essential oils; citrus, spiced, oaky, tropical, berry, herbs, vanilla & biscuit

The main wines we tried
What We Liked

What was interesting was that there was a significant change after all! It was interesting to see how scent can influence the resulting taste experienced. One thing notable is that the scent was most effective in promoting an existing note or profile of the wine, I.e. a citrus based scent best paired with a citrus based white wine. This was because of the citrus scent in the essential oils is not necessarily overpowering, and helps to downplay other existing notes in the wines, making the citrus notes more pronounced.

As taste is heavily influenced by smell (we all know this when we have a blocked nose and taste next to nothing), and this makes perfect sense! Accentuate the existing note that you like in a wine, and it would become more emphasised. This is perfect for when there is a note that is underlying or less pronounced. However, it was not able to introduce a new note that was not already present in the wine.

One thing to note that, this seems to work better with top notes (smell), rather than base notes, as they become too overpowering and then the only thing you would taste is that particular note.

What We Disliked

The oils seemed to very often result in a short finish. We guessed that this would be due to the fact that we often enjoyed it when a top note was heightened by the essential oil, but that tipped the scales to make the base notes a lot less pronounced.

Contrasting notes for sure too. We tried matching Sandalwood essential oils with a fruity red wine and helllllllll, no. The contrast was too strong, and the sweetness of the fruit notes were completely overpowered by the woody base notes of the essential oil. Needless to say, there’s not good result that can come out of pairing a scent your don’t like with a wine you may or may not like, or vice versa.

Unfortunately, the scent from a diffuser was too weak. We didn’t try putting the essential oil in the bottle, so resorted to taking a waft of the scent straight from the bottle. It seemed a bit too extreme to us to drip the essential oils in the bottle. However, if you really do like enjoy essential oils, research suggested one drop per bottle.

Our Key Takeaways

1. It was a fun experience!

However, there were only some with noticeable differences and when it came to oil blends it was hard to figure it out what particular chemical in different scents were altering the taste profile positively or negatively. When trying blends, it was difficult to figure out why we liked or disliked something; there are so many base elements in a blend that it is hard to identify the right scent substance that we like or dislike.

If you’re wondering what we’re referring to, all scents can be broken down to its active components; when the component existing in the wine exists in the essential oil, it enhances. So in a blend, it’s very hard to pick out when particular component is enhancing what, and whether we like it or not. It would be a lot easier and more palatable if we focus on specific oils.

Also, don’t try sniffing 50 oils. After a while our noses just felt like they were stuffed with pollen.

2. General rule: Complementary First

It is always safer stick to what you like. Similar to food pairings, and never forget; 2 bad notes can’t make a good cocktail

There are several terms often used to describe wine such as:  crisp, fruity, oaky, florally, etc.  You can pair an essential in the same ‘category’ of the wine you are drinking to enhance the experience and flavor. Riesling, for example, would pair while with a fruity essential oil such as Sweet Orange, Tangerine, Pink Grapefruit, etc. A Woodsy wine would pair well with Cedarwood, Black Spruce, Fir Needle, etc. A more florally based wine could pair well with Juniper Berry, Geranium, Lavender, etc.

A good way could be to open the wine, let it breathe, and take a taster sip. Once you understand the wine taste notes, rub a drop or two of your choice essential oils on the wrist of your drinking hand, or if you’re daring enough, put a drop of it in your bottle of wine.

3. Essential Oil Enthusiasts Galore

Probably not something we will do regularly, but was interesting to experiment. This is probably something for essential oil enthusiasts to try

While the experience was interesting, the feedback was mixed; unless there is a specific combination that I know of, I probably would be too scared of ruining the bottle to try. Additionally, because the finish of the wines were very often cut short, we would suggest to try this with wines that have a simpler flavour profile that does not have complex layers.

Have other wine ideas you think we should try? Let us know! We might even invite you along for the experience if we take up your suggestion! Just shoot us an email at [email protected]


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Bodegas Volver

Bodegas Volver creates wines in other wine-making regions of Spain such as Alicante, La Mancha, Jumilla, Rueda, Valencia and soon Rías Baixas. The stamp which differentiates Bodegas Volver is its modern approach to its work with indigenous varieties such as Monastrell, Tempranillo, Merseguera, Macabeo, Moscatel etc.

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