West Coast University Scientists Receive $ 7.65 Million Grant To Study Impact Of Smoke On Grapes And Wine

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SACRAMENTO, December 3, 2021 – A team of West Coast university researchers has received a $ 7.65 million grant to study the impact of smoke on grapes and wine. The research project is expected to produce new knowledge, strategies and tools to help winegrowers and winegrowers prevent or better manage grape and wine quality damage that can occur when forest fires occur.

The four-year project is funded by the Specialty Crops Research Initiative of the U.S. National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The project brings together ongoing research programs within the state into a strong and coordinated effort. Dr Elizabeth Tomasino of Oregon State University, who serves as project director, is joined by Drs. Tom Collins of Washington State University and Anita Oberholster of the University of California at Davis. The goals for the project were developed after the research team gathered industry feedback during grant planning sessions held in California, Oregon and Washington.

Exposing grapes to smoke from forest fires can compromise the quality and value of wine grapes. The wildfires have been particularly devastating for the West Coast, where California, Oregon and Washington are three of the nation’s top four producing states. Since 2019, winemakers and wineries from these three states have worked together under the banner of the West Coast Smoke Exposure Task Force to coordinate research on the impact of smoke and education of industry.

An economic analysis of the 2020 wildfires conducted by the Wine Institute estimated the losses at $ 3.7 billion, a figure that will be felt in 2021 as many wineries have decided not to produce wine from it. grapes 2020.

“This research is part of a larger story of how the West Coast wine community is working together to address the profound challenges associated with wildfires and smoke events,” said the president of the California Association of Winegrape. Growers, John Aguirre. “I am encouraged by the pace and quality of current and planned research projects. “

West Coast winegrowers and winemakers want to better understand how the density and composition of smoke affects grapes, vines, wine composition, and the sensory perception of wine in a glass. The research team calls this a “smoke-to-glass” understanding. With the grant, the research team will focus on:

  • New technologies and sensor networks for real-time assessment of smoke risks in the vineyard.
  • Exposure to smoke has an impact on the quality and health of grapes and vines.
  • Grape barriers / coatings to reduce or eliminate the absorption of smoke components in grapes.
  • Rapid tests to predict the taste of a wine exposed to smoke when it is turned into wine.
  • Sensory quality thresholds for smoke compounds in wine.
  • Predictive modeling of the risk of smoke for the quality of grapes and wine from environmental, chemical and sensory data.
  • Awareness and communication program to share results with industry.

Planned work under the new grant builds on previous research by the same team made possible with funding from the Washington State Wine Commission, American Vineyard Foundation, Oregon Wine Board, Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

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