Background and Aims: Smoke exposure of grapevines and development of smoke taint in wine are issues of increasing incidence and severity. There is limited understanding of the effect of phenological stage at the time of smoke exposure on taint development. The aim of this study was to demonstrate the variation in smoke uptake and taint development between and within seasons.
Methods and Results: Smoke was applied to field-grown Merlot grapevines at 12 stages of vine development over three growing seasons. Key periods of vine sensitivity to smoke taint in wine were (i) from shoots at 10 cm to full bloom (low levels of smoke taint); (ii) from berries at pea size to the onset of veraison (variable levels of smoke taint); and (iii) between 7 days post-veraison and harvest (high levels of smoke taint).
Conclusions: The severity of taint in wine varied depending on the phenological timing of grapevine smoke exposure. Taint was elevated when exposure occurred between 7 days post-veraison and harvest. The carry-over of smoke constituents the following season was not detectable in wine but yields were reduced.
Significance of the Study: This is the first study to demonstrate the timing of smoke exposure to critically affect wine chemical and sensory characters. These effects were consistent and reproducible over three seasons.