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Smoke Taint with Dr Mango Parker and Con Simos of the AWRI

This show was published 10 December 2021


This is the first interview on smoke taint with Dr Mango Parker and Con Simos of the AWRI based in Adelaide, South Australia.

Dr Mango Parker leads the AWRI’s current smoke research and in recent times has been focusing on a diverse range of samples sourced from across Australia during the 2019-2020 fire season, looking to better understand the links between chemical analysis of grapes and wine and the sensory effects in wine.

Con Simos has a background in winemaking and leads the AWRI’s Industry Development and Support group. He is responsible for the support delivered to industry in response to smoke events for a number of years (Q&A workshops, sensory training, fact sheets, technical advice, interpretation of analytical results etc.)

The Australian Wine Research Institute is a non-profit organisation, owned and funded by the Australian wine sector through a levy system on grapes produced plus federal government matching the amount raised. They are there to provide support and find solutions to the wine industry problems.

Smoke taint has not particularly been on the radar until recently, but at the AWRI they have been researching since 2003. Now, with climate change/global warming causing more wild fires, it has become more prevalent in wine production and will be a global challenge affecting wine regions throughout the world.

Mango talks about the characteristic of a lingering retro-nasal ash character that is a key feature of grapes affected by smoke taint and an undesirable feature that winemakers want to avoid generally. Essentially, the grapes on the vines are breathing in the molecules from the smoke and metabolising those to form glycosides. The flavours penetrate the entire grape (you can't wash them off the skins) and develop in the wine as it ages. Experiments found that glycosides do not smell but on the palate you can taste the smoke flavour which is causing the ash character in the affected grapes.


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