Can smoked grapes have an afterlife?
A new study is exploring whether there might be any silver lining for winegrowers struck by the taste of smoke, with trials underway to distill affected grapes into deliberately smoked spirits.
A new Australian study is investigating whether spoiled grapes can be used to make deliberately smoke-flavored brandy, or even gin.
The research, conducted by the University of Adelaide, could bring hope to countless wine growers around the world who have seen their vineyards devastated by wildfires this year.
“Hopefully we can launch a smoke flavored brandy or gin in about 12 months,” said Simon Tolley of Simon Tolley Wines in Adelaide Hills, South Australia, who is participating in the trials. “The project will hopefully help other producers affected by the smoke in the future, and also give them more options with the fruit of the rejected wine rather than just putting it on the ground.”
The study is being conducted in tandem with a survey from the same university on the impacts of climate change on brandy production in Australia.
“Due to the time it takes to produce and mature spirits, combined with the delays of 2020 COVID-19, it is still too early to see any results, although the experimentally produced spirits are slowly maturing in the cellar. university, ”said Hugh Holds of the University of Adelaide. “This should give us an idea of how the spirit will develop as a fully mature product. “
It is possible to remove the effects of smoky taste, often described as giving an unpleasant ashy or chemical taste, from wine through an activated carbon fining process, but it can also remove some of the best characteristics of wine.
As part of the project, the researchers are also investigating whether brandy or deliberately smoke-flavored gin would appeal to consumers.
This follows a previous study, also led by the University of Adelaide, which found that activated charcoal fabric could help prevent smoke from affecting grapes in the first place.
The grapes were enclosed in a cloth bag, which appeared to significantly reduce signs of exposure to the smoke.
“Each time, consistently, we see only 1 or 2% of the concentration of these smoke compounds in the grapes or in the wine where the fruit has been protected in these bags of activated carbon, compared to where where the grapes have just been exposed to smoke, ”Professor Kerry Wilkinson of the University of Adelaide told ABC Rural.
The extent of the damage during the 2019-2020 fire season in Australia was unprecedented, causing an estimated loss of production and income of A $ 665 million. The country’s pinot noir, in particular, suffered the most from the effects of the smoke.
“The bushfires we saw ahead of the 2020 vintage were devastating in the areas directly affected,” said Andreas Clark, CEO of Wine Australia last year.
“Fire is part of the Australian landscape, but what we saw last year was different due to the timing and duration of exposure to the smoke. This called into question our knowledge of the impacts of smoke and led to several new research projects. “