SMOKE TAINT – What is it?

When vineyards and grapes are exposed to smoke this can result in wines with undesirable sensory characters, such as smoky, burnt, ashy or medicinal, usually described as ‘smoke tainted’. Consumers have been shown to respond negatively to smoke tainted wines. The compounds in smoke primarily responsible for the taint are the free volatile phenols that are produced when wood is burnt. These can be absorbed directly by grapes and can bind to grape sugars to give glycosides that have no smoky aroma. Often these glycosides are described as smoke taint precursors. During fermentation (and also over time in barrel or bottle) these glycosides can break apart, releasing the volatile phenols into the must or wine, and allowing the smoky flavour to be perceived. These glycosides can also release the volatile phenols in the mouth during the drinking of wine, which may contribute to the perception of smoke taint.

LONG TERM EFFECT

As the smoke is generally only absorbed by the actual fruit or grapes, and not the vine itself, there is no long term effect on future vintages.