Winemakers, fruit growers watching smoke with wary eye

Winemakers, fruit growers watching smoke with wary eye

Winemakers are keeping a close eye on how wildfire smoke is affecting their grapes this season. (Photo by Lyonel Doherty)

By Lyonel Doherty

Oliver Chronicle

As people stay inside to avoid the smoke from wildfires, tree fruit growers and winery operators are wary about the effect it’s having on their crops.

Andrew Moon, vineyard manager at Tinhorn Creek, said wildfire smoke will affect grapes depending on density, timing and longevity.

“Smoke simulates cloud and causes a lack of sunlight, this will slow growth down in any plant due to decreased photosynthesis.”

He said that ash, unless it is very thick, will not affect plant growth.

Moon said if the smoke persisted for a long period of time, it would delay harvest in grapevines.

“As for wine quality, it is too early to tell. I would assume wineries would start testing for smoke taint precursors as the grapes approach harvest time.”

Bruce Fuller, former proprietor of Rustico Farm and Cellars, said smoke effect on grapes depend on many variables: location of grapes; how far along they have matured on the vine; and the length of exposure.

“I’m not sure what extent the smoke experience will go to tainting the wine,” Fuller said, noting he used to ship samples of his grapes to a laboratory for testing.

“My winemaker at the time advised me that our grapes were not tainted and there was no residue. I expect this was due to winds blowing away from the vineyard and the fact I engaged our overhead irrigation system.”

Local fruit grower Pinder Dhaliwal, president of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association, has expressed his concern about the smoke keeping overnight temperatures above normal. He noted that cooler temperatures at night are needed to help apple colouring.