Words by Georgie Fenn
It’s no secret that the wine world is, at times, a little snobby. I’m up there with the worst, and while I stick to my belief that ‘as long as you’re enjoying it, it doesn’t matter what you’re drinking,’ I’d rather it wasn’t Echo Falls. Back when we could go to significant tasting events and wine fairs, I used to love taking a friend along who was into wine but hadn’t tried much outside of a handful of favourites. Why? Because they use an entirely original set of descriptions. Have we ruined ourselves with experience, or is it just so that we’re all on the same page? It’s very up for debate, but personally, I’d much rather hear ‘it reminds me of a ski sock after a long day’ than, ‘The primary fruits are…’
It’s so important when it comes to wine that we allow ourselves to be creative with our tastebuds. Curiosity should always be at the forefront of wine tasting, and it will get you further than a textbook a lot of the time. When I travelled to East Sussex, many of the vineyards had orchards within the same fields as the vines. The East Sussex English sparkling is so distinctive (for me) because of that crisp appley acidity. I once said this comment to another ‘wine blogger’, and they laughed in my face. Unperturbed, I had a similar experience with Lord Ian Botham’s wines. What was this menthol going on in the Cabernet Sauvignon, I wondered? It turns out (thank you, Regan Botham (@cellared_nolonger), for educating me that there is a planting of eucalyptus gum trees as a windbreak on the vineyard.
I have so much respect for wine professionals, and I will always watch people blind taste with awe as their brains click through a hugely impressive collection of knowledge until it lands on the right parcel. All I ask is that, on the journey there, you find the bravery to keep asking questions, no matter how daft they may seem at the time.
The Science Behind Eucalyptus
The compound giving the minty, cool, refreshing, eucalyptus note in wine is called 1,8-Cineole. The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) has done extensive research on just how the flavour gets into the wine, and it’s bizarrely more straightforward than you might think. I have already mentioned that the trees are often planted as a windbreak, so they have quite a breeze coming at them. From experiments, it turns out the eucalyptus leaves blow into the vines and pretend to be vine leaves. See the charts below to see just how many of the cheeky minty numbers try it on. It’s also vital to note that the AWRI looked into this from a consumer perspective and a cluster of 38% preferred the wine with the eucalyptus characteristics.
Read more about the study here.
Georgie Fenn works full time in marketing but has a blog on the side otherwise known as @winingawaytheweekend. She started her blog just for fun two years ago as a place to share her adventures in wine, tasting and travelling.