Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
It’s frowned upon to wear perfume to a wine tasting, right? Yet sometimes when I go to a tasting room I’m bombarded by the way other people smell. What should you do if someone at a tasting is wearing a strong fragrance?
—Aura, Roseville, Calif.
You are absolutely correct that it’s considered inappropriate not just to wear perfume or cologne, but also to wear any hairspray, aftershave or lotion with a strong or lingering odor at a wine tasting.
Why? There’s a strong relationship between what we smell and what we taste. Try pinching your nose shut with your fingers and take a sip of wine. With the wine still in your mouth, unpinch your nose and see how much more of the wine you experience. What you smell really matters, which means lingering odors can really distract from the wine-tasting experience.
Unfortunately, not every wine lover has gotten the memo that it’s gauche to wear fragrance, and a lingering perfume or odor of recently-smoked cigars or cigarettes at a wine tasting can feel like an assault on the senses.
What can you do if it happens to you? This is one place where being direct is not advised, as there’s no way to politely scold someone about how they smell. I’d simply try to move away, or if it’s a seated tasting, discreetly ask if you can sit in another area. You can also make a subtle comment about wanting some fresh air, and step outside or ask for a window to be opened, perhaps under the guise of enjoying the scenery.