Smoke Exposure Resources

The following is meant to provide resources to Washington wine grape growers and wineries who are concerned with potential smoke exposure impacts in 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions about Smoke Impacted Grapes and Wine

This FAQ document was created by the West Coast Smoke Exposure Task Force to help address commonly asked questions about smoke exposed grapes and wine.

Read the document here.

WAVE Webinar - Smoke Exposure Status in Washington

On September 16, 2020, Dr. Tom Collins, Washington State Unversity, shared his latest data during the WAVE (Washington Advancements in Viticulture and Enology) webinar. Watch the webinar here.

Read answers from the Q & A from the webinar here.

IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group 

IEH reached out to Washington State Wine to offer its lab services to help with the backlog of smoke-impacted grapes and wine analysis. IEH is equipped to run smoke analyisi in its Seattle lab and in Woodland, Calif. 

Learn more about IEH here.

Eurofins Laboratories - Drop off in Yakima and Wenatchee

Eurofins has established a grape and wine testing program for smoke indicator compounds for use by growers and winemaking operations concerned with potential smoke exposure. Analysis is performed in the Eurofins Food Analytical Center in New Orleans, however, samples can be dropped off at their Yakima or Wenatchee labs for preparation and shipping or shipped directly.

Learn more about Eurofins testing program here.

Research Report - 2019

Micro-Fermentation Protocol

Grape Sampling Protocol

Smoke Exposure Industry Communications

September 10, 2020

With all of the wildfires and wind events throughout our state, growers and winemakers are understandably concerned about smoke exposure in our vineyards. Dr. Tom Collins, who heads Washington State University’s smoke exposure research, began collecting data from air particle counters he placed near Yakima Valley and Columbia Valley vineyards on August 24. These are the same sensors he uses to record smoke intensity in his simulation trials. As of Tuesday, Sept. 8, the majority of the counters have recorded low to moderate intensity spikes, mainly during the Sept. 7 windstorm. While there is always some level of risk associated with smoke exposure, the relatively low intensity and short duration of these spikes suggest limited risk in the monitored areas from this event. 

Note: This is not a blanket statement that all Washington vineyards are free of smoke exposure. If your vineyard or grapes you purchase have had a significant smoke event, it is important to assess the potential for smoke exposure and impact to fruit and wine quality.

Many factors influence the impact of prolonged smoke exposure in vineyards, including location of fire, freshness of smoke, type of fuel and grape variety. Here are some recommendations, developed in partnership with the West Coast Smoke Exposure Task Force, for growers and wineries who want to assess the potential for smoke exposure: 

  1. Collect grape samples for micro (bucket) fermentations, chemical analysis by lab, and to freeze for later analysis if needed.

  2. Begin bucket fermentation (instructions here). At the same time, send grape samples to a third party lab for analysis, which is needed for crop insurance.

  3. If sending grape samples for lab analysis, package with dry ice or cold packs to ensure the sample arrives in good condition. Understand that lab results may not come back in time to make a picking decision but are needed for crop insurance purposes.

  4. Conduct sensory evaluation(s) of the micro fermentations. In more heavily affected fruit, it may be possible to detect smoky aromas after the fruit has been crushed but prior to the onset of active fermentation.

  5. Small-lot fermentations should be analyzed both sensorially and by chemical analysis as the data may be taken into account for crop insurance purposes in cases where the grape sample showed no impact but the micro-fermentation sample does.

  6. If sending wine samples for lab analysis, carefully package samples to ensure they arrive at the lab in good condition. 

  7. Communicate results from sensory evaluation of bucket fermentations and any chemical analyses with your grower/winemaker counterpart.

  8. Contact crop insurance or other insurance agent as early in the process as practical.

ETS, the primary lab for smoke exposure analysis, is currently backlogged with a lengthy turnaround time for current clients and even longer for new clients. A list of additional smoke impact analysis providers can be found on their website.  

Wanted: Samples for Research 

A component of a federally-proposed smoke exposure research grant will be to use historical atmospheric data to help create risk models for smoke effects in the vineyard. If the grant is funded, the research team would like to incorporate the 2020 harvest into the model but will need grape/wine samples that may have been impacted by smoke.

These samples will be stored until a time when they can be analyzed in the future. This is not an alternative to having samples analyzed by a commercial lab as results will not be available for months.

Interested in sending samples for this future work? Click here for collection and shipping information.