At the Australian National Wine Sector Bushfire Conference last week, Professor Kerry Wilkinson unveiled results from a new smoke taint protection technology – carbon activated (AC) hoods. In early trials the AC hoods showed promising results, protecting the grapes from 97% of smoke taint.

During research trials in collaboration with Peter Michael Winery in California, the grape clusters were covered with a specially woven activated carbon hood that allowed air ventilation but successfully trapped virtually all smoke particulates. Professor Wilkinson showed examples and results for some of the completed experiments that proved the effectiveness of this new technology.

The early field trials involved the application of smoke to Sémillon grapevines and showed that enclosing fruit in the activated carbon hoods prevented exposure to smoke, such that the volatile phenols measured as chemical markers of smoke taint were barely detected in protected grapes – while concentrations up to 21 ug/L were found in smoke-exposed grapes.

Further research is needed, including scaling up with industry partners, but the trial results in both semillon and mataro grapes were beyond expectations. This is good news for the wine industry in the context of increasingly frequent and intense bushfires during the critical ripening period for grapes.

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