Dear The Wine Ladies, As a guest at a comparative Australian wine tasting recently, the observation came up that one of the Cabernet Sauvignon wines from down under had a distinctive aroma resembling eucalyptus. The same notes were then attributed to a Napa Valley Cabernet. I always thought it was the proximity of the trees to the vineyards that allowed this to be true, but eucalyptus in California? – Jeanne

Dear Jeanne, We are often asked how certain smells come to be associated with specific grapes or wines. A common one for Cabernet Sauvignon is green pepper, this is our first for eucalyptus. Great question! Actually, eucalyptus trees do grow in the Golden State and have for quite some time. It was during the gold rush that the trees were introduced into California either by Australians or by others who had been to Australia. The question of whether the proximity of the eucalyptus trees to the vineyards might explain the eucalyptus-like, or medicine-like hints in the nose of a wine is one often debated. There are a couple of schools of thought on this. We had the opportunity to interview Chris Hatcher, Chief winemaker of the iconic Wolf Blass wines on our video podcast and posed a similar question. Here’s what Mr. Hatcher had to say, “Cabernet from Langhorne Creek in South Australia is famous for having a distinct mint/ eucalyptus character. Winemakers have theorized that the character comes from oil expressed from nearby eucalyptus trees on hot days.” Mr. Hatcher went on to explain that the more modern view believes it is more about the specific clones of Cabernet grown in the region, as wines made in other regions from the same clonal vines have a similar character. The same minty character can also be smelt in some wines from California and Bordeaux. It appears, according to the latest research on the topic, there is no evidence to conclusively prove a direct link between proximity of eucalyptus trees and the presence of that flavor in the wine.