Wildfire smoke tainting grapes in some of America’s most celebrated wine regions

Wildfire smoke tainting grapes in some of America’s most celebrated wine regions

NAPPA, Calif. — The wildfires in Washington, Oregon and California this year have been devastating in many ways.

They have blanketed the West Coast, and a new concern is that smoke has covered vineyards with grapes almost ready for harvest -- leading to tainted ‘smoky’ grapes.

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Now, some of the nation’s most celebrated wine regions may have grapes tainted with an ashy flavor that could spell disaster for the 2020 vintage.

According to the president of California Association of Winegrape Growers, the wildfires are “without question the single worst disaster the wine-grape growing community has ever faced.”

Growers are trying to access the severity.

“It is a concern. It has been bad news after bad news this year and after tasting some of the grapes early on, it was like this is going to be fantastic. And then the smoke rolls in," said one grower.

The issue comes down to compounds called “volatile phenols,” which are released when wood burns and can be absorbed by grapes.

The compounds are naturally present in grapes, but when their levels get too high, it changes the taste.

One lab in California says test results on grape samples received now will not be ready until November.

Wildfires, cold and drought killing thousands of West Coast migratory birds