You can probably file this one away as something you never needed to know, but here it is: The urine of a koala shares a chemical component with Rieslings and other fruity wines.
The origin of this odd bit of chemistry knowledge begins in 1975 with a scientist named I. A. Southwell, who was, inexplicably, studying koala pee. Southwell found that if you feed a koala eucalyptus leaves, one of the things it pees out is a specific odoriferous molecular compound known as a lactone, which he identified in a published paper.
More than two decades later, scientists unknowingly isolated this same lactone in wine. They called it “wine lactone”, although we can see now that a strong case can be made for calling it “koala pee lactone”, because our buddy Southwell found it in the Australian marsupial’s urine way earlier. The scientists who isolated wine lactone described the molecule as “intense", “sweet” and “coconut-like smelling.”
So the next time you enjoy a good wine that you might describe as fruity, sweet, or having vague notes of coconut, rest assured you’re getting a small taste of some koala pee.
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