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Study Explores How Wildfire Smoke Affects Wine Grapes

A study by University of California Cooperative Extension examined how wildfire smoke affected wine grapes near burned areas. After 2018 wildfires in California, many growers scrambled to find new markets for grape crops that buyers feared were tainted with smoke. This study showed that wind direction and speed, temperature, and a vineyard’s proximity to an active fire are factors that can help growers and winemakers predict smoke damage to fruit. For example, tests revealed that grapes from some smoke-filled vineyards were not discernibly affected by smoke, because they were far enough from fires that the volatile gases that most affect grape taste were no longer present in the smoke. Testing also revealed that riper fruit was more susceptible to smoke taint, and further tests established thresholds for volatile-gas content below which tasters could not discern a taste impairment.