Scorched vines and tainted Grapes: wine country hit hard by infernos

Eureka, Ca., (KIEM)- As fires rage through wine country the economic and physical damage done to the region’s prize crop might go well beyond scorched vines.

NBC reports, Napa Valley Vintners, a trade association from the country’s most noted wine region reports that at least 4 wineries have suffered total or significant losses, there may be at least 9 more vineyards that face as much devastation.

The dangers posed to the 2017 vintage, and wine makers in the region may actually go well beyond grapes leveled to ash. Smoke alone can wreak havoc on a crop, according to local wine expert and maker Carol Hoopes. Hoopes owns Monument Mountain Vineyards in Rio Dell, she’s also a member of the Humboldt Wine Association.

Grapes can be tainted in as little as thirty minutes by smoke exposure. “It’s a volatile phenol… that’s like a micro-particle that adheres to the outside of the skin of the grapes.” Hoopes explains. “Depending on how thick the skin on the grape is, it can penetrate and get inside the pulp and the juice. It’s not always clear how much the grape is affected depending on how much or how little smoke is in the vineyard.”

The economic impact of taint could be extensive for farmers. Hoopes said, “The testing [for taint] is not expensive. When you make the grapes into wine, that’s where the expense comes in to try and remove the taint, but then you don’t always fix the aromas.”

Hoopes explained that in Australia, where brush fires left vineyards looking for solution to taint, grapes are often re-purposed for Brandy or planted to be used in Rose.