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Cat Urine With Your Wine Madam?

Posted May 14 2009 2:01pm

Most of us are familiar with the fresh delights of New Zealand’s zingy white whites, especially those produced in the Marlborogh region on the South Island. Fans of the country’s best loved wine - sauvignon blanc - may be interested to know a study has been carried out to analyse its taste. However, they may not be to keen to hear the results.

One flavour that the crack team picked out in the analysis was asparagus - a little odd, but OK. Another was passion fruit - that sounds fresh and acceptable. But to know that the researchers detected a whiff of eau de cat pee…might enough to turn you off the white stuff for good.

However, those up for it New Zealanders are not too concerned about the flavours that have been unearthed. In fact it seems to be take rather tongue in cheek as Coopers Creek vineyard is calling their sauvignon blanc “Cat’s Pee On A Gooseberry Bush”, marketing it as “a youthful, kittenish wine, full of zing and zip”. Hmmm, sounds…appetising.

A whopping (and come on, little unnecessary) £6 million was poured into six years of research to really get under the skin of sauvignon blanc - the top grape variety in New Zealand.

The researchers, referred to as an “expert sensory panel” had special training in order for them to be able to identify between no fewer than 16 flavours, which include canned and fresh asparagus (what?), stone fruit, apple and snow peas.

However, wine science lecturer (this wine quaffing really is a serious business) at New Zealand’s Lincoln University, Sue Blackmore wanted to rest our minds at ease by reminding us that these unusual and sometimes disgusting flavours (I’m referring to the canned asparagus here), only occur in minuscule amounts - undetectable to the untrained palate.

“We are talking about parts per billion, very tiny amounts to make the wine more complex and interesting,” she said. “If you had a lot of the compounds that give you cat’s pee, it obviously wouldn’t be great, but it’s amazing what a little can do.”

Yes, I might just pop a few drops into my coffee, or herbal tea - liven it up some!

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