Soil & Land

Measuring bushfire’s impact on vineyards

smoky-vineyard la trobe

Grape growers and winemakers in key Australian wine regions are working with La Trobe University’s Professor Ian Porter to measure the impact of the 2020 bushfires.

The work, to determine smoke level thresholds, aims to develop better tools for early detection of potential smoke taint. The results could help growers decide whether to harvest vineyards affected by smoke.

Professor Porter said smoky compounds naturally occur in grapes and are not damaging at low smoke levels. “You need a lot of smoke to cause damage,” he said.

He warned winemakers and growers in north-east Victoria that air quality data already showed significant levels of smoke damage and that some vines might already be too badly affected to harvest in 2020. However, he said further testing will continue in order to assist industry.

“Rain may stop the smoke, but we won’t know whether the harvest will be useable until further smoke data is analysed and grapes are tested by industry and our own research,” he said.

His team uses smoke-detection devices to compare airborne smoky ‘phenol’ compounds with those in smoke-affected grapes and wine.

“We are now able to provide industry with a way of testing for smoke taint earlier, means we are able to save them huge amounts of time and money, and help them plan future vintages with more certainty,” Professor Porter said.

The research has been funded by the Federal Department of Agriculture as part of its Rural Research and Development for Profit program, Wine Australia, Agriculture Victoria, the Australian Wine Research Institute and La Trobe University.

Source: La Trobe University