Pinot Noir, Pheromones and Attracting Your Mate

by Drew Stofflet, Time Out Wine Columnist
As summer still heats up, a few questions this week. What really attracts you to the wine in front of you? Can you smell your mate in aromas of the wine? And is it possible to pair a wine to a lover?

We all know that “hooking up” is a difficult proposition. Busy schedules and draining routines prevent people from feeling their best and being themselves. The magic is often lost, and dating can be one of the most challenging of our social past times.

Fear not, for that is why the gods invented wine. And it is not just about alcohol's loosening effects, although after a rough day at the office, or on a first date, it doesn't hurt. But on a deeper level, the olfactory senses pick up on primal messages, as chemicals closely linked to human pheromones waft from the wine in the glass, helping to unlock sexual desires and feelings while stimulating natural urges.

Copulins are the primary female pheromone and androstenones are the principle male smells. Women also produce it, but in tiny amounts. In nature, these scents serve to attract or repel the opposite sex of the same species. As for humans, many studies attest to this truth. One conducted recently in Europe showed that males in public places, such as movie theaters or restaurants, choose seats that were sprayed with copulins over those that were not. Elementary really. And research has shown that the chemicals in pinot noir, more than any other wine, are remarkably similar to human sex pheromones. Pinot's wild and exotic pomegranate and berry fruits, mushroomy, truffled earthiness and airy, yet strong perfumes are very similar to androstenone. It's no wonder that women can't seem to get enough pinot noir, and they can't seem to take their nose out of the glass for very long.

All of which led me to seek out and drink two rather exotic pinot noirs recently. Both were from Oregon's famed Willamette Valley, known for lusty pinot noirs, the best of which offer scintillating perfumes, pulse quickening fruit and erotic, musky earthiness. The Maysara Jamsheed 2010 from McMinnville was named after a Persian prince actually credited with accidentally inventing wine. His wife, sick and in pain, drank his preserved, fermented grapes with hopes of dying. The wine instead cured her and gave rise to the Persian term “sweet poison.” The story on the back label states that Jamsheed believed that he could see his whole kingdom in his goblet, and that his name translates to the Persian word for “sun.” This beautiful wine is both organic and biodynamic, using low impact farming methods and taking all of the essential elements of the life cycle into account during its production, capturing the true essence of both earth and fruit. This wine is a glimpse into their realm, and for our story it is like a first date.

The nose is secretive at first, revealing little. The fruit is rubbery, polished, tight and tart. Subtle flavors of kalamata olives, bitter cocoa and peppery cloves slip out. The strong tannic edge suggests that boundaries are in place tonight. The wine is interested in you and wants to get to know you, though. As the evening progresses, and cheeks become more rosied, perhaps a wink or two across the table, maybe a top button is loosened. At end of the evening, when cedars arise and pomegranate-cherry fruits flesh out, maybe a late night kiss. Nothing more, for this wine is classy. But perhaps you will meet again, another time.  

Then there is the Ponzi Willamette Valley 2010, one of the most heralded and respected in all of the Beaver State. Thought by most to have shaped the entire Oregon wine industry, their pinot noir has appeared on Wine Spectator's annual Top 100 list and their winemaker was named tops in Oregon as well. Ponzi, located in Beaverton, just outside of Portland, is also a leader in sustainable viticulture. That is so sexy. And this wine, unlike a first date, is like greeting an old lover, who comforts through familiarity with graceful trust, while still arousing in so many ways. Fizzy vitality leads into blackberry fruits that stimulate and quench lusty desires. Aromatics like cedar and violet remind of who you are with and why you like them so much. In the chemical world, pheromones dictate. They tell us why we are so powerfully attracted to our mates.

And Oregon pinot noirs do the same. I  will drink to that. Cheers! Remember, wine reveals truth.

Drew Stofflet lives in Carbondale. Correspond with him at