Smoke taint On Grapes Possible 09-22-20A 09:40 S.S.
Many grape crops in the 5 western states could suffer from “smoke taint” this year…..and in Monterey county that’s a 190 Million dollar industry. The smoke from the recent River Fire outside Salinas, and the Carmel Fire in the Carmel Valley, along with the Dolan Fire which has been burning toward the east from the Big Sur area is putting this year’s harvest at risk. Smoke taint occurs when grapes are exposed to wildfire smoke which releases aroma compounds called volatile phenols, that can be absorbed into the skin of the grapes and bond with the sugars inside to form glycosides. Once the phenols bond with the sugars, the smokiness cannot be detected by taste or smell, but during the grapes’ fermentation, the glycosides are broken down and the smoke can once again be detected, as an ashtray kind of flavor on the back of the mouth. Local growers are racing the clock to determine if they should continue to pour money and labor into crops that may already be doomed. Testing for the level of smoke taint in wine grapes is taking longer to get results this year, because hundreds of growers throughout the state have flooded the 3 labs available for reliable testing.