Impact of wildfires on wineries

Published: Jun. 21, 2021 at 7:36 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - Summer is a busy time for wine tastings. But due to the wildfires last year, wineries have really taken a toll and are struggling to make ends meet.

“It doesn’t really impact the vine itself, and ash isn’t the problem, it’s the microscopic soot that accumulates on the fruit, the berry itself, and then that is extracted and put into the juice during fermentation,” said Varaison Winery and Vineyards Owner and Nova Labs Director Ron West. “The smoke tends to want to stick to the sugar so we get these glycosylated compounds that are really difficult to eliminate during fermentation.”

The smoke taint doesn’t damage vines, it damages the fruit’s flavor and aromas that are developed during wine production. The big issue wineries are facing is they don’t find out they have a problem until they are well into fermentation, which is 3 months, 6 months, or even a year out, and it’s very difficult to treat. Some wineries have even started barreling in bourbon barrels and marketing the wine as smoked to cope with the damage.

Varaison Vineyards & Winery in Palisade told us in a normal yearly harvest they end up with over 200 barrels. But they only ended up with three from 2020 due to the wildfires. The winery says the reason they’re doing okay is they have a large inventory from past successful years to fall back on as their Plan B.

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