Grapes exposed to wildfire smoke may produce smoke-flavored wine

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Wine grapes
Wine grapes. Photo by Fir0002.

From CFJC Today:

A new study out of the University of British Columbia Okanagan has looked at what happens to wine grapes when they are exposed to wildfire smoke.

Researchers found chemicals in the smoke can give wine an off-putting smoky flavour and aroma known as smoke taint — and those volatile phenols are absorbed quickly and remain in the grape long after the smoke has cleared.

The authors say while wine from those grapes can be smoke-flavoured, the grapes themselves taste normal, likely a result of the volatile phenols changing during the fermentation process.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

4 thoughts on “Grapes exposed to wildfire smoke may produce smoke-flavored wine”

  1. We’ve been drinking “Rim Fire Red” from Yosemite Cellars in Groveland, CA since 2014 (a year after the Rim Fire). The first year it was way intense with an overwhelming smokey flavor but in years since they have blended it with some milder grapes to become more than tolerable. A smokey wine goes best with meats like lamb and finer beef cuts.

  2. Just had this scenario play out in Northern California after the Columbus Day fires. Fires happened at the end of harvest before all the grapes were picked. When we were able to get back in to finish harvest, just less than a week later, the grapes tasted fine. We rinsed some vineyards with overhead sprinklers to wash off any ash mostly but also with the hope of removing smoke, didn’t work. We even brought in a reverse osmosis filter and filtered all the juice. The wine is terrible and continues to get worse.

  3. I had the opportunity to try some wine from grapes that had been “smoked” in the 2009 fires in Victoria (Australia). Just awful, I’m sorry to say. Unless you like the taste of ashtray, I wouldn’t recommend it!


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