Assessing smoke-taint and fermentation issues

In this third part of her study, Elaine highlights what scientists are learning as a result of last year’s California wine-country fires. See also California fires then and now and The reality of the 2017 California fires today

Producers in both Napa and Sonoma counties have been emphatic that it would do them more damage in the long run to release a questionable wine from the 2017 vintage and thus lose consumer trust, than it would be to lose the income from a single vintage. Whites and rosés from the region that have so far been released have all been free of smoke-taint issues and are showing good quality. Red wines harvested before the fires are showing no sign of smoke issues in barrel. Producers are keeping a close eye on later-harvested varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Petite Sirah. In most cases the fruit was harvested before the fires so this is not a concern. For fruit harvested after the fires from cooler pockets, wines have either already been declassified or are being closely monitored. Some key wines will simply not be released as a result.

In Napa Valley Screaming Eagle has announced it will not be releasing its flagship Cabernet-based wine from 2017, although its Merlot-based wine The Flight (harvested earlier in the season than the Cabernet) is fine. Mayacamas winery, pictured above in its isolated position, was completely surrounded by fire and employees were unable to access the site for almost a week. While the winery itself survived, the wines from the 2017 vintage were […].

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