Vineyards works with OSU researchers to unravel smoke impacts from wildfires – The Daily Barometer

OSU Extension Oregon Wine Research Institute Receives $ 7.65 Million To Discover Effects Of Smoke On Wine

As wildfires ravaged Oregon in 2020, the air quality index soared into dangerous territory and smoke flooded the Oregon coast and the Willamette Valley where many vineyards are located.

According to a survey conducted by the California Wine Institute, more than 1 billion gallons of wine were consumed by American citizens in 2020. With growing demand for wine, Oregon wineries fear the smoke from Forest fires do not adversely affect the flavors of their wines.

Wine with a bad taste discourages consumers from buying it. Even without tasting it, consumers are likely to avoid buying wine if it feels like it is of poor quality, explained Vincent Vidrine, winemaker at Benton Lane Winery in Monroe, Oregon. .

“We don’t have a very good understanding of what the market is going to do with wines that have any impact on wildfire smoke,” Vidrine said. According to him, this is the biggest threat to the industry, as forest fires are expected to become more frequent and more serious.

Elizabeth Clark, a winemaker at Airlie Winery in Monmouth, Oregon, said that although Airlie had been shielded from the effects of smoke during the 2020 wildfire season due to her location, she was still feeling the repercussions.

“Even when something impacts most people, even though I’m not specifically affected, it impacts the industry as a whole,” Clark said. “The consumer already knows that there is a problem with the 2020 vintage, so there is already a new strike
he was coming out of the Willamette Valley.

Last month, researchers at the Oregon Wine Research Institute, an extension of Oregon State University, received a $ 7.65 million grant to continue their research into the impacts of smoke exposure on wine grapes.

Dr Patricia Skinkis, professor and wine extension specialist at OSU, serves as a liaison between industry professionals and OWRI. After the wildfire season in 2020, Skinkis formed the Smoke Exposure Team in response to requests from industry.

The team is led by Dr. Elizabeth Tomasino, Associate Professor and Sensory Analyst at OSU. Other team members include Skinkis, Dr James Osborne, Dr Michael Qian and Dr Alec Levin. All members are specialized in viticulture, the study of grape cultivation, and oenology, the study of wines.

When wine grapes are exposed to smoke at high concentrations or for an extended period of time, they risk developing what researchers call a smoky taste.

According to Tomasino, wines that have been contaminated with smoke can develop an off-putting flavor.

“It’s a bit like licking an old ashtray,” Tomasino said.

Sensory tasting trials conducted by OSU MSc student Jenna Fryer confirmed that consumers can taste the difference in wine that has been affected by smoke. According to Fryer, the majority of trial participants disliked wines exposed to smoke.

Finding out the concentration of smoke compounds needed to alter the flavor of wine will allow industry professionals to decide whether they should invest the time and energy in harvesting their grapes. If they suspect their vines are smelling like smoke, industries can save a lot of money by deciding not to harvest this crop.

Levin, associate professor and winemaker at OSU, strives to find different thresholds of smoke tolerance in wine grapes by leading
dose-response smoke exposure experiments.

“As a general rule, when there is a smoke event it will not be like you are smoking meat in a smoker, it is always fairly light to moderate smoke levels over long periods of time rather than ‘intense shooting,’ Levin said. Subjecting the grapes to a specific concentration of smoke over specified time periods will give researchers a better idea of ​​the conditions that lead to a smoky smell in wine.

Levin also said that the variability in the smoke smell can be different depending on the grape variety.

The smell of smoke occurs when the molecules of the smoke leech enter the fruit, mainly through their skin. When they attach to the grape, they bind together as sugars and cannot be smelled or tasted. It is only during fermentation, when the bound molecules separate into free compounds, that they release their characteristic smoky flavors. According to Tomasino, this makes it difficult to tell when a crop was affected by smoke before fermentation.

The fermentation process varies by grape variety, and red wines are more sensitive to altered flavors than white wines, according to Skinkis.

Many Oregon wineries specializing in red grapes have changed their processing techniques to cope with the
Forest fire season 2020.

“Instead of making red table wine from pinot noir, they would basically do other processing techniques so as not to expose the juice to the skins – because that’s where we think most of the scent is. is – so they made rosé or just didn’t make any wines, ”Skinkis said.

While this is still an open area of ​​research, industry professionals across Oregon have confidence in the wine they produce and sell. According to Vidris, if a crop has been significantly altered by exposure to smoke, they won’t sell it to make sure consumers receive high quality products.

According to Skinkis, members of the industry will benefit from this research, as the detection and prevention technologies associated with the smell of smoke will increase the quality of their products, resulting in commercial profitability and an increase in the perceived status of the winery.

OWRI researchers are working for a more sustainable industry.

“You will be able to go to the store and buy whatever wine you want no matter what the weather is like,” Tomasino said.

Comments are closed.