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Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Weird but strangely appealing!

by Brian K Miller » Mon Oct 30, 2006 1:08 am

Had a very odd Merlot today on a beautiful fall day in Napa Valley-Milat 2004 Napa Valley Merlot. Very unique minty and menthol notes to the otherwise basic Napa Merlot. I commented about it, and the pourer agreed, suggesting that the vineyard was right next to a grove of Eucalyptus trees. This may mean my palette is bad, :oops: but I found it quirky enough and interesting enough to buy a bottle, even though it may be a "fault." Has anyone else experienced this unique note in a wine?
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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Wierd but strangely appealing!

by Randy Buckner » Mon Oct 30, 2006 1:33 am

This is not uncommon at all, Brian. My first experience with eucalyptus in wine was with the old Johnson-Turnbull VS-67 Cabs. The vineyard was planted next to (and over) an old eucalyptus grove. You could easily detect a minty, eucalyptus flavor in the wine.

Heitz Martha's was noted for this as well. The vineyard was surrounded by eucalyptus trees.

One or two of the Joseph Phelps wines (Backus and Insignia if my memory serves me) had mint/eucalyptus in them as well.

I'm sure others can relate similar experiences.
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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Wierd but strangely appealing!

by Bob Ross » Mon Oct 30, 2006 1:57 am

Brian, I searched my wine diary and found the following wines with the eucalyptus in the aroma or taste:

1989 Domain St. George Premier Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County California.

1994 Bethel Heights Southeast Block Reserve Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Oregon.

1994 Buena Vista Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Carneros California.

1995 Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley California.

1996 Caliterra Seña Aconcagua Valley Chile. [This was at a tasting with several Chilean winemakers present. From my notes: "Deep red color; deep hue; very good fruit and berry aroma with hints of black pepper and a bit of eucalyptus; very good to excellent tastes of fruit, red berries and black pepper, with notes of earth, leather and herbs; medium mouth feel; mild tannins, nicely integrated; long, smooth, interesting finish with a sweetness that was quite compelling. 4*. [The panel discussed the eucalyptus aroma: there are no eucalyptus trees in Chile, but the aroma is indigenous to Chile, especially noticeable in cooler years and wines made from grapes grown at higher elevations; the more sun, the less the aroma.]"

1996 Summerfield Shiraz (Pyrennees, a cool area in Victoria about 2 ½ hours North and west of Melbourne) Australia. Dan Phillips discussed this wine: "Phillips: 30 year old vines. 1996 was generally a superb year in Australia, 1997 Australian wines were generally much lighter, but that the 1997 Summerfield would be exceptional because of the vineyard’s cool location. He said the American oak had been used, a third of which was new. A winemaker near us said that the eucalyptus probably came from trees upwind of the vineyard; he said that the resins from the trees blew onto the grapes during the growing season. Phillips said there were eucalyptus trees everywhere in Australia, but that wines from cooler vineyards generally showed more eucalyptus."

1996 Lengs & Cooter Shiraz (Clare Valley, a cool region) Australia.

1995 Château Reynella Shiraz Basket Pressed McLaren Vale Australia.

1997 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia.

1996 Zaca Mesa Zaca Vineyard Santa Barbara County California.

1997 Echezeaux, Champy Burgundy France.

1978 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley California. Sbragia conducted this tasting: Sbragia said the 1978 was the second PR vintage, that the fruit was overripe when picked, that only new oak was used because of all the fruit, that the vintage had aged beautifully. He said he pumped over three times a day, and this vintage exemplified his preference to age oak and wine together. In response to questions, he said that the cedar notes could come from either wood or the juice, and that the eucalyptus aromas could have come form eucalyptus leaves that fall into the crushers and stemmers; the resins from the trees also build up on the skins of the grapes before picking.

1991 Penfolds Bin 389 Australia.


1999 Lindemans Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon Cawarra South East Australia.

1995 Colgin Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard Napa Valley California.

Regards, Bob
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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Wierd but strangely appealing!

by Brian K Miller » Mon Oct 30, 2006 2:03 am

Thanks, guys for the background. It's nice to see I"m not imagining things. It was a very interesting Merlot because of those notes.

I know they are considered a weed tree, another "mistake," here in California, and I know they cause problems (I know one will come crashing down on my townhouse, some day. The idiot builder planted Eucs in planter islands in front of my house!) but I still have a liking for the strange and fascinating eucalyptus!
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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Wierd but strangely appealing!

by Graeme Gee » Mon Oct 30, 2006 2:04 am

Mint &/or menthol are quite common notes in cabernet-based wines from the Clare Valley in South Australia, and the Pyrenees in Victoria.

One of the very earliest wines that famously established Coonawarra on the modern map was a 1963 cabernet from Mildara that was so strongly and distinctively flavoured it was nicknamed Peppermint Patty (after a mint-flavoured confectionery of the time). In good nick this wine will fetch around A$300 at auction today.

If I was tasting blind and smelled strong mint/menthol or eucalypt aromas I'd seriously consider an Australian wine as an option.

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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Wierd but strangely appealing!

by Mike Filigenzi » Mon Oct 30, 2006 10:42 am

I love a little hint of eucalyptus in wine. OTOH, my friends and I made a cabernet franc a few years ago that was undrinkable due to an overwhelming eucalyptus flavor and aroma. I think that was due to way the owners of the vineyard were treating the grapes, but it was ungodly awful stuff.

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Eucalyptus Part Of Terroir???

by TomHill » Mon Oct 30, 2006 12:02 pm

Very interesting question.
It is not at all uncommon to get notes of varying degree of minty/menthol/eucalyptus in wines grown in the vicinity of eucalyptus trees. In Oz wines, this is often accompanied by strong notes of koala dung as well.
Apparently, these trees emit a resin that is blown about and settles on the skins of the grapes that imparts this character in the wine.
The Swanson Syrah used to show hints of eucalyptus until Clarke paid the neighbor to that vnyd to take down this row of eucalyptus trees.
The Carlisle GumTree Zin was from a vnyd adjacent to euclyptus trees and showed a strong scent of that, hence Mike's name for the wine of GumTree.
So, the questions:
1. If the grapes are grown in the vicinity of eucalyptus trees, is that minty/menthol/eucalyptus character in the wine a part of the terroir??
2. If the wine is fermented and matured at a "winery" that is located in the centre of a huge eucalyptus grove in Bolinas, is the minty/menthol/eucalyptus character in Sean Thackery's wines part of the terroir thing??
And, for extra credit:
3. Is the scent of koala dung in Oz wines part of their terroir??
Tom
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Re: Eucalyptus Part Of Terroir???

by Randy Buckner » Mon Oct 30, 2006 12:21 pm

And question number four:

Just how much koala dung has Tom Hill smelled? :twisted: Talk about volatilizing your esters….
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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Wierd but strangely appealing!

by Sam Platt » Mon Oct 30, 2006 12:42 pm

Randy Buckner wrote:Heitz Martha's was noted for this as well. The vineyard was surrounded by eucalyptus trees.


Yes definitely. I had a 1998 Heitz Martha's Vinyard Cab that had a very pronounced "mint" taste to it. I agree with Brian that it is "strangely appealing".

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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Wierd but strangely appealing!

by Mark Lipton » Mon Oct 30, 2006 6:26 pm

Sam Platt wrote:
Randy Buckner wrote:Heitz Martha's was noted for this as well. The vineyard was surrounded by eucalyptus trees.


Yes definitely. I had a 1998 Heitz Martha's Vinyard Cab that had a very pronounced "mint" taste to it. I agree with Brian that it is "strangely appealing".


Yes, Martha's Vyd was renowned for its mintiness. I find that I have a limited tolerance for it. At a visit to Phelps a year or two ago, I found their Backus Cab nearly undrinkably minty. Likewise, at a Penfolds tasting, I found nearly all their wines too minty/eucalyptusy for my tastes. I also routinely find mint/eucalyptus in Cline's wines, but usually at a level that's appealing to me.

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Cline Eucalyptus...

by TomHill » Mon Oct 30, 2006 6:35 pm

Mark,
Regarding the Cline eucalyptus...I typically find that only in their ContraCosta reds, particularly the Small Berry Mourvedre. In their Calif, their Sonoma County, and their SonomaCoast (from a new vnyd in the rolling hills between Sonoma and Petaluma..not really the extreme Sonoma Coast), I've seldom found that character.
Their old vine vnyds over in ContraCosta/Oakley area, the resource that launched the Cline winery, were surrounded by eucalyptus trees.
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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Wierd but strangely appealing!

by Brian K Miller » Mon Oct 30, 2006 6:53 pm

Maybe the mint was what I tasted Friday night when I had a sip of a friend's rather "odd" Penfolds cab Friday night? :roll:
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Re: Cline Eucalyptus...

by Mark Lipton » Mon Oct 30, 2006 8:27 pm

TomHill wrote:Mark,
Regarding the Cline eucalyptus...I typically find that only in their ContraCosta reds, particularly the Small Berry Mourvedre. In their Calif, their Sonoma County, and their SonomaCoast (from a new vnyd in the rolling hills between Sonoma and Petaluma..not really the extreme Sonoma Coast), I've seldom found that character.


Good point, Tom. Living here in flyover country, I have limited access to Cline's single vyd offerings, so mostly what I'm referring to is their Ancient Vines Zin and -- yes -- their Small Berry Mourvedre, and I do believe that I've also found it in their Live Oak and Big Break Zins.

Their old vine vnyds over in ContraCosta/Oakley area, the resource that launched the Cline winery, were surrounded by eucalyptus trees.
Tom


...and toxic waste sites, alas.

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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Weird but strangely appealing!

by Jenise » Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:03 pm

Love euc character in cabernet. It helped me identify an 85 Phelps Insignia (served blind) last week. Go ahead and embrace it, it's not a flaw. It's not something everyone likes, but it's not a flaw.
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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Weird but strangely appealing!

by Bob Ross » Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:16 pm

ETS Laboratories has a very interesting technical bulletin online concerning this subject. Extracts:

“Eucalyptus” character is one of the most notable and controversial sensory expressions in some of California’s most prominent wines. Its presence is often related to eucalyptus trees growing near the vineyard area.

ETS has conducted research that has linked the “eucalyptus” aroma to the presence of eucalyptol (1,8-cineole) and has developed a method to detect and quantify its concentration in wine.

Analysis of eucalyptol is a powerful tool to measure the impact of eucalyptus growing in the vicinity of the vineyard, and to assist winemakers in objectively documenting their sensory impressions.

Eucalyptol (1,8-cineole) has a “fresh”, “cool”, “medicinal” and “camphoraceous” odor. It is the main component of the distinctive odor found in most eucalyptus species and represents 65 to 75% of the leaf oil from E.globulus, the predominant eucalyptus species in California.

In our research study, eucalyptol was detected in a variety of wines exhibiting a “eucalyptus” aroma. The flavor, perceived during tasting, appeared to be strongly related to quantified concentrations of eucalyptol as high as 20 µg/L. Aroma thresholds for eucalyptol were determined using a California Merlot. The difference and recognition thresholds were 1.1 µg/L and 3.2 µg/L respectively.


And, giving support to TomHill's speculation:

The likely origin of eucalyptol in wine is via airborne transfer from eucalyptus tees to grape berries in the vineyards. Eucalyptol released into the atmosphere may be adsorbed by wax on the berry surfaces. It is subsequently dissolved during fermentation on the skins or extended macerations. This theory is supported by the observation that a “eucalyptus” character is rarely experienced in white wines.
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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Weird but strangely appealing!

by Paul Winalski » Wed Nov 01, 2006 11:19 pm

Brian K Miller wrote:Had a very odd Merlot today on a beautiful fall day in Napa Valley-Milat 2004 Napa Valley Merlot. Very unique minty and menthol notes to the otherwise basic Napa Merlot. I commented about it, and the pourer agreed, suggesting that the vineyard was right next to a grove of Eucalyptus trees. This may mean my palette is bad, :oops: but I found it quirky enough and interesting enough to buy a bottle, even though it may be a "fault." Has anyone else experienced this unique note in a wine?


APPEALING??? IT'S AN ABOMINATION!!!

I've noticed--and been thoroughly REVOLTED by--eucalyptus taint in lots of stuff from California and Australia.

I used to note that there was a peculiar--and most unwelcome--aroma and taste to nearly every wine I tasted from Sonoma Valley. I coined the phrase "Sonoma Stink" for it. Then I visited the area in person. I soon realized that what I disliked was the pervasive eucalyptus taint that the grapes picked up from the ubiquitous eucalyptus trees (gum trees, if you're from Oz--which apparently is where they were imported from). The aroma's in the air everywhere, and the locals are so innured to it that they don't notice the reek.

I HATE it with a passion!

The famous Martha's Vineyard in Napa, for instance--it's like brushing your teeth with minty Crest. Or sucking cough drops. This isn't wine--it's toothpaste.

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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Weird but strangely appealing!

by Mike Filigenzi » Thu Nov 02, 2006 12:18 am

Paul Winalski wrote:
Brian K Miller wrote:Had a very odd Merlot today on a beautiful fall day in Napa Valley-Milat 2004 Napa Valley Merlot. Very unique minty and menthol notes to the otherwise basic Napa Merlot. I commented about it, and the pourer agreed, suggesting that the vineyard was right next to a grove of Eucalyptus trees. This may mean my palette is bad, :oops: but I found it quirky enough and interesting enough to buy a bottle, even though it may be a "fault." Has anyone else experienced this unique note in a wine?


APPEALING??? IT'S AN ABOMINATION!!!

I've noticed--and been thoroughly REVOLTED by--eucalyptus taint in lots of stuff from California and Australia.

I used to note that there was a peculiar--and most unwelcome--aroma and taste to nearly every wine I tasted from Sonoma Valley. I coined the phrase "Sonoma Stink" for it. Then I visited the area in person. I soon realized that what I disliked was the pervasive eucalyptus taint that the grapes picked up from the ubiquitous eucalyptus trees (gum trees, if you're from Oz--which apparently is where they were imported from). The aroma's in the air everywhere, and the locals are so innured to it that they don't notice the reek.

I HATE it with a passion!

The famous Martha's Vineyard in Napa, for instance--it's like brushing your teeth with minty Crest. Or sucking cough drops. This isn't wine--it's toothpaste.

-Paul W.


Wow, Paul - you must be very sensitive to it. You would have run screaming from our cabernet franc (but then, most people did)!
:D

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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Weird but strangely appealing!

by Tim York » Thu Nov 02, 2006 8:18 am

There are mint traces in the aroma of some Médoc wines and I cannot recall having seen any eucalyptus trees in that area. However the trace is usually very slight and at that level quite appealingly fresh, although I did notice one vintage (from the 60s or 70s, I think) from a vertical of Château Palmer, no less, where the trace was greater than I like. This was still leagues away, though, from the toothpaste (good description that!) flavour of many Oz wines.
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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Weird but strangely appealing!

by Jenise » Thu Nov 02, 2006 12:43 pm

Tim York wrote:There are mint traces in the aroma of some Médoc wines and I cannot recall having seen any eucalyptus trees in that area. However the trace is usually very slight and at that level quite appealingly fresh, although I did notice one vintage (from the 60s or 70s, I think) from a vertical of Château Palmer, no less, where the trace was greater than I like. This was still leagues away, though, from the toothpaste (good description that!) flavour of many Oz wines.


Years ago on visiting Concha y Toro in Santiago, we noted eucalyptus in the Don Melchor and asked about eucalyptus trees. We were told by the winemaker that there were none anywhere around the vineyard, that it was strictly the result of winemaking. Not sure what PART of winemaking, but he was very definite about it happening in the winery, not the vineyard. Which seems to be refuted by just about everything I've learned since, but there you are.
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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Weird but strangely appealing!

by Paul Winalski » Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:56 pm

Tim York wrote:There are mint traces in the aroma of some Médoc wines and I cannot recall having seen any eucalyptus trees in that area. However the trace is usually very slight and at that level quite appealingly fresh, although I did notice one vintage (from the 60s or 70s, I think) from a vertical of Château Palmer, no less, where the trace was greater than I like. This was still leagues away, though, from the toothpaste (good description that!) flavour of many Oz wines.


I wonder if there's any mint growing wild in the shrubbery in the Medoc?

Martha's Vineyard has a very large eucalyptus tree growing in it, or so I'm told. Some parts of Sonoma County have so many eucalyptus planted that the smell is in the air all around you. It's no surprise that the essential oils get onto the grapes and into the wine.

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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Weird but strangely appealing!

by Tim York » Thu Nov 02, 2006 2:45 pm

Not mint in the Médoc, I think, but slightly more plausibly certain essences from the conifers upwind in the Landes forest.

Certainly not trickery in the winemaking as claimed at Don Melchor!
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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Weird but strangely appealing!

by Sam Platt » Fri Nov 03, 2006 12:00 am

Paul Winalski wrote:I HATE it with a passion!


That's pretty severe Paul. I can see someone not liking it very much, but it seems hard to truely a bit of mint in a wine. Particularly if it's not over done. I wouldn't want it in every wine, but it does add some complexity.
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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Weird but strangely appealing!

by Peter Ruhrberg » Fri Nov 03, 2006 10:02 am

Paul Winalski wrote:Martha's Vineyard has a very large eucalyptus tree growing in it, or so I'm told. Some parts of Sonoma County have so many eucalyptus planted that the smell is in the air all around you. It's no surprise that the essential oils get onto the grapes and into the wine.

-Paul W.


It's true, I've seen the trees. My guide from R. Mondavi winery told me they are going to cut some down. Mondavi has some land nearby too, and appearently cannot use some grapes grown too close to the trees, because of the eucalyptus reek on them...

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Re: Eucalyptus in the Terroir? Weird but strangely appealing!

by Paul Winalski » Sat Nov 04, 2006 10:41 pm

Sam Platt wrote:
Paul Winalski wrote:I HATE it with a passion!


That's pretty severe Paul. I can see someone not liking it very much, but it seems hard to truely a bit of mint in a wine. Particularly if it's not over done. I wouldn't want it in every wine, but it does add some complexity.


A bit of mint nuance I don't mind. The problem is, that IMO in Sonoma it's nearly ALWAYS overdone. I can't really blame the poor souls--they live and breathe that reek every day, and don't even notice it's there. But for someone who doesn't have eucalyptus trees in the backyard--PHEW!

-Paul W.

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