Interesting article. Thanks for taking the time to share it.
Here's an interesting article about how wines experience a dumb phase where their aromas are strongly muted before they return to or exceed the strength and complexity of the original aromatic profile:
This quote is just a snippet from the beginning. I think it's a worthwhile read.Whatever other virtues wine can claim, constancy is not one of them: from the moment the fermentation ceases, the wine begins to change. Among the most frustrating changes is the dreaded ‘dumb phase’, when a wine, once exuberantly fruity and sensuously lush, suddenly appears hard and unyielding, and the once-plentiful aromas have all but disappeared. Confronted with such a result, wine lovers begin to despair of their purchases and doubt their ability to taste. Assurances that the wine is ‘only going through a dumb phase’ do little to allay the consternation – particularly when the bottle costs thousands of pounds.
Unfortunately, the phenomenon is not well understood. The question of why wines smell at all is a matter of intense study. One generally refers to the scent of young wine as its aroma, and to the more complex smells of a matured or maturing wine as bouquet. Aroma is produced in wine by the volatile compounds present in grape skins and juice.
Literally thousands of volatile compounds are present in grape juice and wine. The identification of specific compounds with their associated aromas is still a work in progress that continues using high-tech tools such as gas chromatographs and mass spectrometers. What is certain, however, is that this array of aromas is constantly changing as the alcohols and acids present in wine combine with each other as the wine ages in bottle.
Aromas of fresh fruit are the first we perceive, and are thus referred to as primary aromas: apple, currant and grapefruit are all common descriptors. To this are added smells from the fermentation, whether this is the buttery aroma of malolactic fermentation, the vanilla spice of barrel ageing, or the yeasty notes of Champagne stored on the lees. These are called secondary aromas. Finaly, there are the mysterious tertiary aromas that result from the volatile esters produced in the bottle by the combination of the wine’s alcohols and acids. These can range from truffle to cedar to lead pencil and soy sauce. Along this route from redcurrant to truffle and soy, there are many stages of evolution that delight and baffle the wine lover.
In some cases, the tasting process begins well before the wines are put into bottle. Traditionally, the first glimpse of a new claret vintage is in the spring after the harvest, a year or two before the wines are put into bottle. This en primeur tasting will often show an exuberately fruity character that will disappear by the time the wines are bottled and shipped to eagerly waiting clients.
Could a 'dumb phase' occur in fragrances?
Wine and fragrance share many similarities and it wouldn't surprise me if this would be another one.
Interesting article. Thanks for taking the time to share it.
Remember that while it is perfectly acceptable to criticize the content of a post - criticizing the poster is not.
Mean spirited, nasty, snide, sarcastic, hateful, and rude individuals on Basenotes don't warrant or deserve other Basenoters' acknowledgement or respect.
I definitely agree it will be dependent on the ingredients. Some fragrances may not 'suffer' through this phase as much as others, but based on the multitude of ingredients in an ordinary fragrance, some may 'suffer' a more pronounced muted stage than wine.
Wines are generally made from the same sort of ingredient blend. Grapes, sugar, yeast and various additions for flavour and maximising yeast performance whilst minimising harmful bacteria. Perfumes are made from so many different things, and are generally in ethanol to prevent spoilage, so in the same sort of terms I would suggest a no.
However, a newly made perfume will go through initial changes before settling to its final mature stage. Occasionally with certain blends this can lead to some notes initially cancelling others effects and sometimes re-emerging. In that way, a sort of loose yes-ish.
Well, the variability in the taste of wine is noticeable, but understandable. It's one thing: fermented grapes. There's a typical course in the life of a bottle of wine.
Fragrances can be anything, and if they're inconsistent, they could be fixed by more innovative means than French wine producers are allowed, at least, where regulations limit additives.
Bottles of wine can turn, but it wouldn't necessarily damage the brand of a bottle of wine that turns bad. It can happen. If a bottle of fragrance turns, it would be more damaging to the brand, I think.
In the wine bottle, reactions are taking place, as intended. In the fragrance bottle, the intent is to have a stable, finished product, as I understand it.
Where I could be wrong is with some niche fragrance using a natural ingredient that degrades, but I've never had a fragrance like that, and I don't see a lot of discussions about fragrances going bad.
There's less ethanol in wine than in fragrance, usually 12-18% IIRC, and this process occurs in those conditions. Fragrances' alcohol content is about 80%.
I don't know if this difference in concentration would stop this from happening in fragrances, I would guess not, since they are both within an order of magnitude.
I wonder if this kind of phase happens to Scotch, which has a higher alcohol content, about 40%.
Bottles of wine can go bad, and is part of the wine experience. In bringing up this "dumb phase", I don't mean that it is related to bottles going bad, but instead in the case of wine there is a period of time it is still drinkable and tastes like wine, but the aroma and bouquet are not projecting as intended. After a period of time, it recovers and is much more aromatic.
I agree that for most fragrance companies the intent is to stop all reactions by the time it is bottled. I'm wondering if reactions could still be taking place, especially in fragrances that use natural ingredients. We have a complex mixture made up of multiple ingredients, more so if natural tinctures are blended. How do perfumers stop all reactions from taking place?
It is actually very common to see/hear someone talking about a fragrance that "went bad". So my guess would be it is very possible, though not exactly in the same way for wine.
Thanks for posting, did not know so far that such probability/possibility of fragrance spoilage and/or altering existed, or what caused it.
My own knowledge on the wine front only comes from making country wines. I will try and look out for this phenomena when I make the next batch. Is there a particular time or age at which it happens?