It's a problem plaguing grape-growers worldwide - in an ever-changing climate, how can they protect their crops from the undesirable effects of wildfire smoke exposure. A recent study by a team of UBC Okanagan researchers has led to the development of a preventative strategy for protecting grapes from volatile phenols - flavored compounds present in smoke that may be absorbed into ripening grapes and subsequently impact wine flavor.
A cool September meant a lot of Washington’s Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were still hanging when early freezes hit in early October, creating widespread harvest chaos and crop loss — at a time when the industry already faced an oversupply. Kevin Corliss, vice president of vineyards for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, declined to put a number to the loss but called it one of the top-three weather-damage events in his career.
It was late October when Adrian Sparks caught sight of the first smoke rising from the hilly horizon. Within days the haze evolved into drift smoke, which grew thicker as the mountain behind the Mount Pleasant winery in the Hunter Valley caught fire. “It was full-on,” Adrian says. “There was smoke all through November and December. A clear day would still be hazy.
Chile has been having a good grape season so far, and has been able to take advantage of the California season ending early and the Peruvian Ica-region season starting late. “We’ve been able to enter a fairly empty market – much emptier than it was last season,” says Christian Corssen of Compañia Frutera Santa Maria, who exports their grower’s grapes throughout Chile.
Australian wine producer Tyrell’s has said it has decided to “severely” reduce its 2020 vintage, by as much as 80%, due to fears of smoke taint. Although not directly affected by the serious fires in Australia, the “continued presence of smoke” in the Hunter Valley since late 2019 means that many of the vineyards may have been affected by smoke taint.
The fast-moving fire that tore through the Adelaide Hills has possibly wiped out a third of the region's wine production. The Adelaide Hills is one of the most intensively farmed regions in South Australia and it's estimated 25,000 hectares has been burnt. On Kangaroo Island a further 13,000 hectares has burnt.
Above par northeast monsoon (winter monsoon) season and downy mildew disease have left the grape growers of Vijayapura district in dire straits. About 40% of the crop cultivated in the district has been damaged due to excessive moisture, cold weather, and the downy mildew infection. The crop loss in the region is pegged at Rs 356.
This is the third time in five years that the grapes in Sanjay Pathade’s 16-acre land have turned black and rotted away at a nascent growth stage. The 48-year-old from Jambutke village in Nashik district’s Dindori taluka had undertaken a second-round pruning of his vineyards in mid-September in preparation for a good harvest by late-January.
The post-monsoon rainfall has severely affected the grape crop in the flowering stage across Pune, Nashik, Sangli and Solapur districts. The lack of sunlight and presence of mist have also affected vineyards in the region, which includes the leading grape-producing districts in the state. Essentially, hundreds of acres of grape plantations are in a bad shape.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue this week announced that growers who suffered crop losses due to natural disasters in 2018 or 2019 can apply for assistance through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). Winegrape growers who suffered losses due to smoke exposure events in 2018 are eligible.
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