Smoke taint in wine is an issue of increasing frequency and severity for the wine industry nationally. Grapevines exposed to smoke during sensitive periods of growth produce wines that can contain smoke-related aromas, flavours and compounds and be unpalatable.
Smoke derived taint in grapes and wine has resulted in a decline of product quality and financial losses for many grape growers and wine producers within Australia. The issue of smoke taint in wine is increasing in Australia as climatic conditions change. This report details research that builds on our understanding of grapevine susceptibility to smoke uptake and further investigates smoke complexity (density, duration, plume distribution, composition) and smoke taint development in grapes with a view to reducing the incidence and severity of smoke taint in grapes and wine. This project has developed and communicated a computer based system to predict the seasonal likelihood of smoke damage to grapes to assist with landscape management (prescribed burning) and smoke taint reduction strategies (e.g. winemaking techniques). This system is called the ‘Smoke Taint Risk calculator’ (STAR) and incorporates key knowledge gained from this study such as an understanding of smoke complexity, varietal susceptibility to smoke and smoke effects on key grapevine phenological stages. The STAR model is an interactive, user friendly web based tool that can predict seasonal smoke taint risk to grapes for any wine-producing location. The model assists landscape managers to determine the best times to schedule burns and assists vignerons to implement strategies to reduce the risk of smoke taint in grapes and wine. STAR operates by automatically simulating grape growth stages to predict a time series of likely smoke taint risk for key wine grape varieties. STAR uses real weather data from any weather station in Australia and can make predictions for future weather scenarios using simulated weather of any decile. STAR is a powerful communication tool in co-operative efforts to manage the risk of smoke taint at the vineyard level.