Smoke taint analysis

Smoke taint compounds

The compounds in smoke primarily responsible for smoky characters in wine are the free volatile phenols that are produced when wood is burnt. These compounds can be absorbed directly by grapes and bind to grape sugars to give glycosides that have no smoky aroma, sometimes described as smoke taint precursors. During fermentation (and also over time in barrel or bottle) these glycosides can break apart, releasing the volatile phenols into the must or wine, and allowing the smoky flavour to be perceived. Glycosides can also release volatile phenols in the mouth during wine tasting or consumption, which may contribute to the perception of smoke taint.

Smoke taint analysis

AWRI Commercial Services can analyse grape, juice and wine samples for a range of smoke-related volatile phenols and non-volatile phenolic glycosides which may have a negative impact on wine quality. Understanding the levels of these marker compounds in fruit and/or wine may assist with making harvesting or winemaking decisions where there is a risk of smoke taint.

The AWRI recommends assessing the risk of smoke taint in grapes prior to harvest. Grape samples should be submitted for analysis of volatile phenols AND non-volatile phenolic glycosides (smoke taint panel). Tips for sampling, packaging and transport of grapes for smoke analysis are here: Grape sampling, processing and transport following vineyard smoke exposure.

In addition, a small-scale ferment of potentially affected grapes can be conducted at the same time. This allows wineries to conduct sensory assessment of the small-scale wines and gain further information to help determine the risk of smoke taint developing in wine. A protocol for conducting small-scale ferments for this purpose is available here: Small lot fermentation method.

Juice and wine can also be analysed for smoke taint compounds.

Prices per analysis
Analysis Sample type Cost (ex GST)
Volatile phenols + phenolic glycosides wine $247.00
Volatile phenols + phenolic glycosides grapes $270.00
Volume required – 500 g berries OR 100 mL wine

For more information, please contact AWRI Commercial Services on (08) 8313 6600 or

Data interpretation and winemaking advice

Results from analysis of both volatile phenols and glycosides can be compared with baseline data from non-smoke-affected fruit and wine to help determine the potential risk of smoke taint. Low levels of volatile phenols and their precursors occur naturally in grapes that have not been exposed to smoke, so it’s important to assess their concentration, not just their presence or absence.

For assistance with data interpretation and winemaking advice to reduce the potential effects from smoke-related phenols, please contact the AWRI helpdesk on (08) 8313 6600 or

Further information can be obtained from the following links:

AWRI smoke taint homepage

Smoke taint analysis – fact sheet for customers in Australia

Smoke taint analysis – fact sheet for international customers

Small-lot fermentation method