It’s only June, and fires in the wine country and elsewhere in California have already started.  The Point Fire, Sonoma County’s first wildfire of the season, erupted Sunday afternoon northwest of Healdsburg. This does not bode well for the rest of the harvest.

So far, 34,000 acres have burned in California.

This is four times the five-year average for the same period. This sharp rise is primarily attributed to vegetation growth fueled by atmospheric river rains, which have subsequently dried out and become highly flammable under the current hot and dry conditions.

Smoke Taint

Everyone immediately has a huge concern about smoke taint, in addition to the safety of the structure and people.  Because this fire is so unusual early in the season, no one is certain how the smoke will affect the grapes.  Smoke taint develops when grapes absorb volatile phenols in smoke imparting undesirable flavors and aromas in wine.  Scott likens it to the taste and smell of a wet ashtray.

Vulnerability of Young Grapes:

Grapes are less permeable before veraison (the ripening of the grapes when they change color) than in their more mature stages. However, exposure to smoke can still lead to the uptake of smoke-related compounds, albeit potentially at lower levels.

Delayed effects

The impact of smoke taint on grapes before veraison might not be immediately evident. The bound glycosides can release the smoke flavor during fermentation or aging, leading to detectable taint in the resulting wine.

Winemaking Considerations

Grapes affected by smoke before veraison require careful handling in the winery. Techniques such as minimizing skin contact, using activated carbon treatments, and blending with unaffected grapes can help mitigate the impact of smoke taint.

In Amador County, there have been no severe wildfires to date. However, in neighboring Calaveras County, a wildfire quickly engulfed 5,000 acres before being contained. With temperatures expected to reach 100 degrees, concerns will remain high over the coming months.



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