Independent Grape Growers - Paso Robles Area
Gold Members

Smoke Taint and You

What to do when smoke gets in your vines
By: Becky Zelinski

When wineries ask you how you knew whether or not smoke taint has affected your vineyard, it’s best to be know the answers. Growers can find out how to be prepared at the September IGGPRA (Independent Grape Growers of the Paso Robles Area) seminar to be held at La Quinta Inn & Suites on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. In addition to smoke taint, the latest updates on Red Blotch and Bunch Rot will be discussed.

Like it or not, the California Central Coast has been affected by its share of smoke in 2016. It’s difficult to know at this point which vineyards have been affected with smoke taint and to what degree. Therefore, the million-dollar question on the minds of every grower is: has my fruit been affected; and if so, to what degree and what does it mean?

The short answer is: it’s complicated. Believe it or not, smoke taint is variable from vineyard to vineyard and even within a vineyard. The taint is caused by a wide range of volatile phenols found in wildfire smoke. The compounds are absorbed by vines and accumulated in the berries, and thus, can create unwanted flavors in the wines (especially those that aren’t aged in oak).

All of these issues can mean several things to both the grower and the winery. As a grower, the most prudent thing to do is to know as soon as possible (experts say pre-harvest) whether their vineyards have been effected by smoke taint and how it affects: 1) the grapes, 2) the wineries’ acceptance of the fruit; and 3) the ultimate wine product. But the most important issue to growers (especially prior to harvest) is what preventative measures can they take, if any?

Leading the discussion on smoke taint will be Eric Herve, a research scientist from ETS Labs based out of St. Helena, California. ETS has been working with smoke taint issues for many years and in 2008 – after the wildfires in northern California – developed an analytical tool to screen grapes for the risk of smoke taint. According to ETS, the best defense to combat the potential damage of smoke taint is a good offense. They’ve recently opened a lab in Paso Robles and are able to assist growers address the problem, and winemakers with how to mitigate it.

Herve will also provide information on how to collect samples (which can be challenging), how the wine samples are analyzed and removal treatments.

The cost to attend the seminar is free for IGGRPA members (two per membership) and $20/pp for non-members. Space is limited and sure to fill up so register early at or call (805) 591-4204.