In Agriculture

Victoria Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh

Smoked Grapes Help Scientists Understand Taint Threat

Victor P Taffa

Victorian Government scientists have been exposing wine grapes to smoke as part of groundbreaking experiments to better understand the impact of smoke taint on grapes and the wine that is made from them.

Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh today met researchers at the Centre for Expertise in Smoke Taint Research at Irymple, and inspected a custom-made device that researchers had designed and built to expose ripening grapes to the impact of smoke.

The Centre for Expertise is a $4 Million election commitment by the Victorian Coalition Government to help grape growers and winemakers counter the threat posed by smoke taint.

“Bushfire smoke taint has cost the Victorian grape and wine industries an estimated $300 Million in lost production and downgraded quality over the past five years.” Mr. Walsh said.

“During the 2013 vintage our researchers have used their device to deliberately expose shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay grapes to smoke, and then turned those grapes into wine at the Centre for Expertise’s on-site winery.”

“The device uses straw, burned in an incinerator, to smoke the grapes as they reach maturity.”

“More than 2.5 tonnes of smoked and unsmoked fruit have been processed through the experimental winery as part of the Centre’s activities this year, producing over 100 wines for smoke taint research.”

“The wines produced are the focus of two main experiments by its researchers. One is looking at the shelf life of smoke tainted wine under various conditions, and the other involves exposing grapes to smoke for different amounts of time to determine how much smoke causes taint.”

Centre for Expertise Director Dr. Mark Downey said this work was linked to other research focusing on the potential to use smoke detectors around vineyards to help growers determine the level of risk posed by any smoke present in the area.

“Part of our work involves attempting to link the incidence of smoke taint in fruit and wine to measured smoke levels in the environment using a field smoke detector.” Dr. Downey said.

“These kinds of smoke detectors are affordable and will make it possible for industry to set them up in networks to enable growers to determine what level of risk is posed by smoke present in their area.”

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