What factors affect smoke taint in the vineyard?
The key factors that determine whether smoke-exposed grapes become tainted are the grapevine growth stage, grape variety, smoke composition and the length of smoke exposure. More details about vineyard risk factors can be found in the following fact sheets.
- Smoke taint – entry into grapes and vineyard risk factors
- Stubble burning – a possible source of smoke taint in grapes
- Minimising the impact of controlled burns on wine-grape production
Fire damage of vineyards
If vines are actually burnt during a bushfire, these resources provide advice on managing damaged vines.
What are options for managing smoke-exposed fruit?
There are a number of steps that can be taken in the vineyard and winery to minimise the sensory impacts of smoke exposure. These include hand harvesting, excluding leaves, keeping fruit cool, separating press fractions, fining and reverse osmosis treatment. More details are available in the following fact sheets:
- Smoke taint – practical management options for grapegrowers and winemakers (AWRI fact sheet)
- What can be done to identify and reduce smoke effect in grape and wine production (DAFWA fact sheet)
Assessing grapes affected by smoke exposure for smoke taint
The AWRI recommends assessing the risk of smoke taint via a combination of analytical testing of grapes and sensory assessment of a small-scale ferment made from the same grapes.
Grape samples should be submitted for analysis of volatile phenols and non-volatile smoke precursors. Details of the smoke taint analysis options available from AWRI Commercial Services are here: Smoke taint analysis FAQ
In addition, a small-scale ferment of potentially affected grapes can be conducted. This allows wineries to conduct sensory assessment of the small-scale wines and further determine the potential risk for smoke taint to develop in wine. A protocol for conducting small-scale ferments for this purpose is available here: Small lot fermentation method.
Smoke taint analysis results and interpretation
Smoke taint analysis results will include the volatile compounds guaiacol, methylguaiacol, ortho-, meta- and para-cresol, syringol and methylsyringol, as well as the non-volatile precursor compounds syringol gentiobioside, methylsyringol gentiobioside, phenol rutinoside, cresol rutinoside, guaiacol rutinoside and methylguaiacol rutinoside. More information on what the analytical results mean, as well as the sensory impact on wine, can be found here.
To assist with interpretation of analytical results, the AWRI has established a background database of volatile phenols and precursors collected from grape and wine samples that have not been exposed to smoke. This background data can be compared to the results of potentially exposed fruit to determine the likelihood of the fruit or wine containing elevated concentrations of taint compounds. However, for wines that have been analysed after oak treatment, interpretation of results cannot reliably be compared to background data due to extraction of oak volatile compounds from the oak. Forward your analytical results to the AWRI helpdesk on firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance with interpretation of results.
How to contact the AWRI helpdesk?
Telephone: 08 8313 6600 during business hours
More information needed?
Please refer to this list of smoke taint articles and this list of articles on managing fire damanged grapevines for the latest published research. Copies of articles can be ordered from the AWRI library.