How to use this blog

This blog consists of pieces on various wine technology topics. These are sorted into Categories: Postmodern Winemaking, Natural Winemaking, Terroir, Alcohol Adjustment, Social Responsibility, and so forth. The Search function will bring up titles discussing your keyword: sulfites, micro-oxygenation, chips, allergens, fining, and reverse osmosis are rich in content. I also recommend the Postmodern Winemaking Calendar Mandala or the the Postmodern Winemaking Glossary which ties all the concepts of postmodern winemaking together.

Smoke Taint Treatment

Hi Clark:

I have a wine with smoke taint from a grass fire. What remedial treatments are available?  What is the efficacy, have you seen successful results on Pinot Noir?

Dave

 

Hi Dave,

Pinot Noir generally has little tannin structure, which in other wines can absorb and integrate smoke taint, so it’s particularly difficult to treat without losing the essential perfumes that make Pinot attractive, because the membranes required are much looser than those that can be used for removal of smaller molecules like ethanol and acetic acid and tend to strip mouthfeel and floral aromatics.

While the phenomenon is far from well understood, here’s the scuttlebutt.

Our reverse osmosis sublicensee David Wollan of WineNet Australia (now MemStar) first developed an offshoot of my patent to treat smoke taint.  We now know that it is a large complex of compounds and every fire is different, but guaiacol and 4-methyl guaiacol are used as an index.

In my invention, a tight RO membrane (around 80 daltons porosity) passes permeate containing pretty much just water, ethanol and acetic acid.  Ethanol can be removed by distillation and the water recombined, or VA can be removed by a resin and the alcohol/water solution recombined.

These membranes are too tight to pass smoke taint, so he employed looser ones in the 100 – 150 dalton range, running the permeate through activated charcoal and returning to the wine.  The looser the membrane, the more efficient the removal, but also the more you lose good stuff, particularly in a fragile wine like Pinot Noir.

It seems that in some treated wines, the taint recurs. It is believed that this happens if the taint elements are glucosylated, which it seems only happens early on, during the pre-veraison or immediately post-veraison cellular division time.   So if your grass fire happened in the fall, you might be okay.  If not, you might check with Peter Salamone at Laffort, who has been looking at glucosylase enzymes to hydrolyze the bound form.  I believe ETS can analyze for what you have.

Your toughest choice is who to trust your wine to.  There are four companies: WineSecrets, Winetech, VA Filtration, and Mavrik.  I have had good and bad experiences with all of them.

Direct fining with carbon can also be tried: http://wine.wsu.edu/research-extension/2012/10/smoketaintfining/

Additional reading: http://wine.wsu.edu/research-extension/2012/09/smoke-taint/

https://www.etslabs.com/resources/publications/analytical-tools-for-harvest/smoke-taint.aspx

California Pyra-noia in 2023

Noted columnist Dan Berger is writing a book on Cabernet Sauvignon, and he and I regularly discuss a common mental ailment among my winemaker colleagues that I call “pyra-noia,” a morbid fear of Cabernet varietal character and in particular, the bell pepper aroma attributed to 2-Isobutyl-3-methoxypyrazine, or IMBP.

The history of this ailment is interesting. Like Type 2 diabetes, it was nearly unknown until skyrocketing in the early 1980s in response to the quite high levels of bell pepper in plantings in the Salinas Valley in Monterey County. This is thought to have been related to the fruit shading caused by the high vigor of own-rooted, virus-free vines in a cool climate.  When in 2008 my panel at AppellationAmerica.com tasted 126 wines from this area, we found that the viticultural practices (canopy manipulation, leaf pulling, deficit irrigation) and  winemaking techniques (whole berry fermentation, flash détente) had completely eliminated the problem.

Yet the mental disorder remains, and has spread to Napa Valley, where common practice is to mask varietal and terroir character through excessive hang time, resulting in high alcohol raisiny, pruney wines that all taste the same at breathtaking prices that appeal to the unwashed rich.

The average brix in 1976 for Napa Cabernet was 22.9, resulting in legendary wines from BV, Mondavi, Clos Du Val, Souverain and Burgess with distinctive character and astonishing longevity, many still wondeful today, half a century after they were made.  Today’s “clown wines,” which are harvested at an average of 25.6 brix, not only lack character but fall apart in the cellar by five years of age, to me a betrayal to the consumer.

But Mother Nature seems this year to be on the side of folks like Dan and me.  The freakishly cool growing season is giving us full maturity at less than 23 brix.  It’s basically a French year, with low brix, low malates, rich fruit and low pHs, hastening picking due to the threat of rain and botrytis rot.  We are all going to make elegant, balanced, distinctive wines in 2023 whether we want to or not.

ETS Labs just sent out a hilarious article offering cold comfort to the pyranoid entitled Why is monitoring IBMP important this year?  In essence, it says that this will be a high varietal character year and there’s nothing to be done about it except to send samples to ETS to measure the extent of the calamity. Here’s yet another supplier promoting pyra-noia.

Join Dan and me in rejoicing.  Who knows — when Napa winemakers see how wonderful these wines will be, some of them might even decide to make them that way on purpose, as André Tchelistcheff smiles down from Heaven.

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Bedrock Hospital

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