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The Art of Formulating

The Art of Formulating

As a partner in a family vineyard and winemaking business in the Napa Valley, I am intrigued by the similarities between making wine and formulating natural cosmetics. Both pursuits are grounded in the earth, forwarded by science and elevated by creativity. Anyone can learn the fundamentals to make a wine, or to make an oil blend or formulate a lotion, but to transcend ordinary to make something truly special demands a deep knowledge of ingredients and inspiration from the winemaker/formulator. Making wine and making cosmetics both follow specific scientific procedures. Grapes are easily fermented to produce wine, and recipes for a lotion or cleanser are readily found on the internet. Beyond the basics, there are multiple choices to be made. The winemaker and cosmetics formulator have the ability to determine desired characteristics and work toward them. For the winemaker, desired flavor (fruit or tannin, dry or sweet), alcohol level, and aroma will inform the production methods throughout the process through bottling. A cosmetics manufacturer will consider texture, scent, stability and desired benefits and create and test many variants until the formulation meets the goals. A cosmetics manufacturer arguably has more tools in the toolbox to create the desired product. While a winemaker is limited to blending grape varietals to achieve a goal, a cosmetics formulator is unrestricted in the number of ingredients (ideally nontoxic and organic) in the final formulation. But, as with wine, the quality of ingredients determines the quality of the finished product. And, as with wine grapes, ingredients are heavily influenced by how and where they are grown. At my family vineyard, Vine Hill Ranch, “tucked along the wooded hills of the Mayacamas Mountain Range in Oakville, the fruit from our higher vineyard blocks exude an earthy, forest floor chaparral quality. Blocks on the lower benchland, with its deep, loamy soils and younger vines, yield bright fruit flavors and fine tannins full of verve and energy.” – Vine Hill Ranch website. Francoise Peschon, the winemaker for VHR describes her process as “releasing the voice of the vines.” At Kahina, we carefully source our high quality argan oil with an understanding of the importance of region and with sensitivity toward the local culture. We source our argan oil from high in the Anti Atlas Mountains in southwest Morocco where the dry mountain air protects our argan oil from rancidity present in oils from the coastal regions of Agadir and Essaouira. With an artisanal approach to production and utmost respect for ingredient integrity, the nuts of the oil are cracked by hand, carefully sorted and then cold pressed. The oil is then decanted for three days in stainless steel containers. Similarly, our Moroccan Rose Water is an expression of place. The dry dessert conditions of the region, where petals of Damask Rose are picked before dawn before steam distillation, creates its “dusty” aroma,. At Kahina we work with a chemist with over 25 years experience who specializes in formulating according to organic guidelines. It is this knowledge, combined with our shared passion for ingredients and commitment to protecting the environment that elevates our products. Both wine and cosmetics combine art and science. Brand owners, whether in the wine or cosmetics fields, imprint the finished product with their vision and esthetic, but the end result is the true creative expression of the ingredients and the maker.
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