9 Feb 2015

Smoke-tainted grapes could be an issue

2:03 pm on 9 February 2015

The fire which burned through almost 600 hectares of forest and farmland in Marlborough in the past week could be costly for some grape growers as well.

Vineyards in the vicinity of the fire which burned over five days in the Onamalutu Valley near Renwick, may now have a problem on their hands with smoke-tainted grapes.

Wine Marlborough's general manager Marcus Pickens said they did not know yet how many vineyards may have been affected by smoke from the fire, on the edge of one of Marlborough's main wine producing areas.

But they were acting on advice from the Australian wine industry and its experience in dealing with the impact of bush fires on grape production.

"Our Plant and Food colleagues here have got close ties with the Australian Wine Research Institute and they've published some information about the smoke-taint possibilities and it seems like there could be a risk to certain (grape) varieties, probably not so much sauvignon blanc, but pinot noir, ripening earlier, could have some exposure to smoke taint.

"It's probably too early to see any impacts yet, but there will be some pre-harvest trials, just to see whether they can take a small quantity of the grapes from various vineyards and make those into wine and do some sensory analysis and probably laboratory analysis to see whether there's been any impact.

"The smoke was probably coming in a norwest pattern for much of the time, so there would be a few vineyards potentially impacted, but it depends on the duration of the smoke being in their vicinity. We've had information which says if visibility is reduced over two kilometres for two hours and if your varieties are right in that ripening window, there could be an impact."

Mr Pickens said Marlborough was still a month away from the start of picking, mostly grapes for sparkling wine, but the bulk of the harvest is still five or six weeks away.