Wine scientists smoke out vital data from bushfire

Conditions during an actual bushfire are being replicated in controlled vineyard plots as part of a study into the effect of smoke on wine production.

Through the trial, Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) scientists from the Centre for Expertise in Smoke Taint Research in Mildura hope to get a greater understanding of the effect of differing smoke intensities and exposure periods on wine grapes.

"The data they will be using to mimic bushfire conditions was collected during a bushfire event by smoke detectors being trialled as part of smoke taint research," DEPI wine industry project officer Ricky James said.

"The units allowed the collection of real-time smoke data from an actual fire event in a nearby vineyard.

"We have been able to measure and log the smoke intensity over time and it is this data that will be used to replicate smoke levels and conditions in a controlled environment."

Wine from the trial plot grapes will be produced at DEPI's Mildura winemaking facility with the aim of quantifying the effect of different smoke intensities and lengths of exposure in that vintage.

The Centre for Expertise in Smoke Taint Research is a Victorian Government initiative.

It is home to a comprehensive research and development program that will significantly improve the wine industry's knowledge of how smoke impacts wine.

"The Victorian wine industry is a vital part of the state's agricultural sector and it is critical we address the threat posed by smoke taint," the Executive Director of Farming Systems Research with DEPI, Dr Ron Prestidge, said.

"Smoke taint has cost Victorian wine grape growers and winemakers more than $300 million in lost production and downgraded quality over the past six years.

"Through this collaborative project we aim to assist the wine industry to remain internationally competitive and a significant contributor to the state's food and fibre sector exports."

Equipment is now being tested ready for trials to commence.

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