Australian universities team up with growers to assess smoke taint

Two of Australia’s leading wine science organisations are helping vine growers assess the impact of smoke taint on grape samples following the country’s devastating bushfires.

NWGIC Director Professor Leigh Schmidtke

Australia’s National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC) and Charles Sturt University in New South Wales are working with the growers to test grape samples in order to help growers understand the potential impact of the smoke exposure on their vines in order to make decisions about the vintage.

It comes after Wine Australia recently reported that a maximum of 1,500 hectares of vineyards – around 1% of Australia’s total vineyard area – are within the regions affected by the blazes. The majority of this is from the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, the worst affected area, which was reported to have lost a third of its vines, the equivalent of 1,100ha, with damage also reported in the Tumbarumba region of New South Wales.

According to the university, growers can conduct sensory assessment of their wine to gauge the potential risk for smoke taint to develop, with grape grower associations coordinating the referral of the small-scale samples to the Charles Sturt Winery.

NWGIC Director Professor Leigh Schmidtke said the impact of ‘smoke taint’ depended on a number of factors including the growth stage of the vine and grape maturity, variety, how long the grapes are exposed, and proximity to the source of  the smoke.

“Conducting a small-scale ferment of potentially affected grapes allows wineries to undertake a sensory assessment of the wine to gauge the potential risk for smoke taint to develop,” he said. “This, along with analytical testing of grapes provided through commercial laboratories, will give grape growers and wineries information to make decisions ahead of harvest.”

The NWGIC is an alliance between Charles Sturt, the NSW Department of Primary Industries and the NSW Wine Industry Association.

See here for ways to help the Australian Wine Industry in the wake of the fires.

 

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