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Wine-Pheromone connection: The science behind the seduction of wine

on 11/03/13 at 9:05 am


Wine has long been considered the liquid precursor to sensual pleasure, the elixir of Bacchus, the one lusty, legal intoxicant. A conservative line of thinking associates the loss of inhibition brought on by all forms of alcohol with wild, Bacchanalian revelry. Those of us who appreciate wine as an accompaniment to meals scoff at such narrow minded ideas. But there just might be something to the notation that wine’s powers can lead to unbridled passion…

imagesIn 2004 I had the very good fortune to meet Dr. Max Lake, an Australian vintner, surgeon and author of several gastronomic books with titles like Scents and Sensuality. Lake became somewhat of a mentor to me until his death in 2009. Lake passed on a great deal of knowledge about biochemistry as it related to attraction. But the most profound of Dr. Lake’s teachings was on the relationship between wine and sexual stimulation and attraction.

According to Dr. Lake’s research, the scents of certain wines replicate the smells of human pheromones, those tantric body scents said to excite sexual instinct. “The mature cabernet sauvignon has an essence which is as close to this natural sexual turn-on as one could hope for,” were the colorful words with which Dr. Lake explained his discovery.

The scents used to describe many red wines – leather, sweat, spice, musk – are nearly identical to the scents emitted from the glands of hair follicles, essentially the same as the smells associated with the primary male sexual hormone, androstenone. Androstenone, apparently, also smells a great deal like the scent new oak imparts on fermenting grape juice, perhaps the first rational explanation behind the ever-rising trend toward full-bodied, oak-enhanced wines.