USA

California wineries unlikely to sell smoky wines post-wildfires

Smoke from California wildfires can taint the flavor of wine grapes, but flawed harvests are unlikely to make it into the hands of consumers.

Or at least that’s what experts at the Wine Institute — an advocacy group for the California wine industry — says regarding recent wildfires in the state.

“The majority of California’s wine grape crop has not been impacted by smoke exposure from the wildfires,” Gladys Horiuchi, a Wine Institute spokesperson told Fox News.

When it comes down to smoke-tainted grapes, Horiuchi acknowledged that it is a possible challenge some winemakers can face if wildfire smoke is “fresh, dense and in close proximity to the vineyard” where grapes are harvested from.

And seeing smoke in the sky doesn’t necessarily mean grapes will be impacted, she added.

Workers pick grapes at the Roche Winery in Sonoma, California.
Workers pick grapes at the Roche Winery in Sonoma, California.Getty Images

“[The smoke] has to be fairly new and right next to it,” Horiuchi reiterated.

“Certainly, there has been some individual losses at vineyards and wineries, but really this is not a consumer problem,” she continued. “Consumers don’t need to worry about the wines having any kind of smoky taste because the wineries will not release wines that are not of the same consistent quality that they’ve had with other previous vintages. They just won’t risk their reputations.“

Vineyards in the northern counties of California Wine Country, such as Sonoma and Napa, are the likeliest to be affected by wildfires, according to Horiuchi. Although, she noted that both counties account for about 11 percent of the state crop.

Cities such as Paso Robles, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Lodi and Fresno appear to be positioned in better shape from waging wildfires in addition to Central Valley, the Sierra Foothills and Butte County, Horiuchi added.

In areas where wildfires aren’t a problem, vineyards and wineries are operating business as usual with outdoor tasting appointments, which are being socially distanced in response to the pandemic.

A banner that reads "Thank You - First Responders" in appreciation of the thousands of firefighters in the Sonoma and Napa Valley wine region.
A banner that reads “Thank You – First Responders” in appreciation of the thousands of firefighters in the Sonoma and Napa Valley wine region.Getty Images

Most grapes for white wine were harvested before the wildfires started, according to Horiuchi, which is good news for makers of white wine and rosé. It’s the red wine grapes that are stirring up concern among some vineyards and wineries.

Despite the wildfires in California, wine grapes are grown in 49 states and 58 counties.

Further assessments conducted by California wineries will help the Wine Institute determine how much of the state’s wine crop has been impacted.

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