Grapevine smoke exposure and the subsequent development of smoke taint in wine has resulted in significant financial losses for grape growers and winemakers throughout the world. Smoke taint is characterized by objectional smoky aromas such as “ashy”, “burning rubber”, and “smoked meats”, resulting in wine that is unpalatable and hence unprofitable. Unfortunately, current climate change models predict a broadening of the window in which bushfires may occur and a rise in bushfire occurrences and severity in major wine growing regions such as Australia, Mediterranean Europe, North and South America, and South Africa. As such, grapevine smoke exposure and smoke taint in wine are increasing problems for growers and winemakers worldwide. Current recommendations for growers concerned their grapevines have been exposed to smoke are to conduct pre-harvest mini-ferments for sensory assessment and send samples to a commercial laboratory to quantify levels of smoke-derived volatiles in the wine. Significant novel research is being conducted using spectroscopic techniques coupled with machine learning modeling to assess grapevine smoke contamination and taint in grapes and wine, offering growers and winemakers additional tools to monitor grapevine smoke exposure and taint rapidly and non-destructively in grapes and wine.
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