Every so often this comes up here in California. Can wine take on flavors from things that are planted in close proximity? Does it matter what your neighbor is growing if you’re trying to grow wine grapes?
For the most part, it doesn’t. But there are a few cases where it just might on some level.
Here’s the one classic example where it does matter.
Normally that example is in regard to eucalyptus, although there’s a spot in Sonoma that deals with the same questions in regard to lavender.
So can wine pick up some taste from plants that are planted in close proximity?
It’s not as insane as it sounds at first blush.
Back to my eucalyptus example, there actually has been quite a lot of research done in that regard. The reason is that eucalyptus grows freely in California, native to Australia, it doesn’t need extra water and grows to at least 50 feet pretty quickly. As anyone with close by neighbors can tell you, eucalyptus trees block the wind and prying eyes quite well and quickly after planting.
So growers have planted more eucalyptus than they might care to admit.
The funny part? Eucalyptus has an oil that comes from the leaves, that seems to attach itself to wine grape skins. I’ve heard Wine Entusiast and a few winemakers refer to something along the lines of MOG (Matter Other Grapes) in regard to anything like this that gets added to fermentation.
For many folks, that’s a major issue (and yes, I am including yeast in this). For others? This is a sense of place? It’s why winemakers want to have a conversation with you. It’s why they want you to understand where the grapes were actually grown.
In any case, when we ask about other plantings transferring anything to your wine, we need to break the question down a bit further. Can what’s planted effect the grape vine roots? In this case, eucalyptus would be far enough away and have roots deep enough to not be a concern.
Can what’s planted transfer anything to the wine itself? This is a lot harder. Sure, some chemical compounds will transfer. But, we don’t know what those are of yet.
As an example, there’s a ton of almond fields close to wine grapes, without anyone ever thinking that anything is transferred.
What I’d love to do, is ask winemakers on a wide scale, crowd source the answer. Does anything close to your vineyards transfer to your wine?
We might, as an industry be surprised at the responses that we receive.
Having tried a Sauvignon Blanc that tasted like a lavender bloom, I can’t say no.