Scientists help wine merchants to quit smoking in 2013

Many people may have made the New Year's Resolution to quit smoking in 2013, but to wine merchants the term relates to a specific and unwelcome phenomenon.

In the wine trade, 'smoking' occurs when clouds of smoke from wildfires - such as those seen in Australia in recent weeks - drift over a vineyard, and affect the flavour of the grapes.

This can be detected by tasting the grapes and in the wines produced from them, and is something the industry is keen to tackle, to further improve the reliability of the fine wines produced in such regions.

Now researchers writing in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry have developed a means of testing for smoke-related substances in both vineyard grapes and finished wine products.

Australian winemakers have helped in this development, as funding was provided in part by the industry-supported Grape and Wine Research Development Corporation, and by the Australian Government.

While the process itself is rather technical, it is based on levels of phenolic glycosides - substances produced in grapes that have been exposed to smoke, and which can be measured through liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.