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Wildfire Smoke Unlikely To "Taint" Grapes

Abbelone vineyard

Eugene-area wine lovers worried about smoke tainting their local vineyards can rest easy. Experts say recent wildfires aren’t likely to affect the grapes.

Kristian Ferry owns and operates Abbelone vineyard in Eugene. He said research out of OSU has shown the chemicals that create a campfire taste or smell are more problematic in red wine. He added, “I think it’s more impactful when it’s earlier in the season and the grapes are still growing and taking up everything. Once they get full size, they stop taking up anything except for water.”

Ferry said research indicates ash on leaves and stems may be the biggest source of taint. He said separating the grapes is harder for big wineries. “Sometimes, if they’re more picky about it, or better about it, they have a sorting line," he said. "You can get out a lot of that material. Of course you can’t get all the little ash and dust that’s on the fruit, but it’s mostly the leaves, I think, that actually do it.”


Ferry said rain helps, and his grapes are nearly clean after recent storms. He expects to harvest in about a week. 

Oregon State University runs a Wine Research Institute and is looking into issues of smoke on grapes. 

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.
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