Seymour wine producer tests smoke taint

By Country News

Victorian winemakers are assessing their fruit for smoke taint to ensure the product is high quality, following the recent bushfires.

A method called reverse osmosis is being used by winegrowers to recover wine from smoke taint.

Smoke compounds that enter the grape can affect its taste and cause an unpleasant smell of smoke in the wine.

Wine X Sam owner Sam Plunkett, from Seymour, received a government grant to begin smoke taint analysis.

“We pick half a bucket of grapes and do a miniature fermentation to assess the extremity of smoke taint,” Mr Plunkett said.

“We can send samples away to a laboratory and they measure the compounds.

“Inside a vineyard you ideally test each variety, the degree of smoke depends on variety and growth cycle of the grape.”

The vineyard is located east of Avenel in the Strathbogie Ranges, and the winery brings in fruit from all around central and northern Victoria.

The winery crushes 1000 tonnes of grapes a year, making about a million bottles of wine annually.

Mr Plunkett said one test result picked from Katunga did not detect smoke taint.

“It was great news to get that first result, but we'll still have fruit on vines in six weeks time, and we don't know what will happen in terms of new fires before harvest.”

A dozen more samples will be tested by Mr Plunkett, who said wine could be recovered through reverse osmosis.

“Under high pressure we can push small molecules out, which looks like water, and then we can remove the smoke compounds and put the wine back together.”

He said winegrowers take pride in what they produce and will utilise technology to assess and recover the wine from smoke taint.

State Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy said more grants were needed for winegrowers.

“The response from (Victorian) Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes has been totally inadequate and I implore her to do more,” Mr McCurdy said.

“The minister has been quick to visit north-east wineries during the good times but we need her back here again now, face to face with grape growers to discuss this deepening situation.”

A $2.5 million Victorian Government package was developed for bushfire-affected winemakers, which Ms Symes said was in direct response to growers’ feedback.

“It’s disappointing but unsurprising to see Mr McCurdy shoot from the hip in the hope of scoring a political point — this does nothing to help any of our bushfire-impacted producers and businesses,” she said.