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New smoke taint test developed

Scientists have developed a means of testing grapes for smoke taint – a vital tool as bushfires continue to threaten vineyards, particularly in Australia.

New test for smoke taint ‘reliable’

Research commissioned by the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) has resulted in a successful way of assessing the extent of smoke taint in grapes and wines, according to an article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The method developed by the research team works by measuring the quantity of glycosidic grape metabolites which are created by the major volatile phenols present in smoke.

‘The method was confirmed to be of sufficient senstivity and reliability to use as a diagnostic assay,’ the article reports.

‘On the basis of phenolic glycoside concentrations, grapes or wine can be assessed as smoke-exposed or not, and the relative intensity of smoke exposure can be determined.’

Testing for smoke taint already exists, but it does not always prove effective – sometimes wines show smoky flavours despite having low levels of the relevant compounds when tested, while the use of barrel aging and oak chips can also interfere with successful analysis.

Bushfires are an annual threat to vineyards in Australia in particular, and have impacted wine growing areas in the Clare Valley and Tasmania already this year.

Written by Richard Woodard

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