Oregon State develops new method to measure wildfire smoke in wine

Published: May. 2, 2023 at 6:12 PM PDT
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CORVALLIS, Ore. (KPTV) - Dr. Elizabeth Tomasino at Oregon State University has been studying wildfire smoke in wine for years. She said after testing, she realized the old way wasn’t working.

“We sort of sat down and were like, ‘We’re probably missing something. We’re not measuring quite the right thing for this,’” Tomasino said.

She and other researchers were looking for what caused smoke taste. After some help from researchers at Washington State University, they were able to identify that taste as coming from thiophenals.

“We were like OK, ‘We have these new compounds that definitely cause it,’” Tomasino said. “That was what was proved in the paper was causation, not just correlation.”

Tomasino says wildfires have been a growing concern in the industry.

“Having this information, particularly historical information, is just going to be more useful for ‘What should the industry do?’” she said.

SEE ALSO: April snow storm damages local vineyards; too early to tell the extent

Dr. Cole Cerrato, assistant professor at OSU, furthered the research by setting up an experiment to add smoke to grapes growing in a greenhouse. He says this helped prove the new thiophenals that can help wineries.

“We think it could be very impactful for them,” Cerrato said. “Especially as they need to make some crucial decisions about their wines.”

Tomasino says they are in touch with winery owners often. They are trying to make this easy for them to use.

“(We are working on) a much simpler, at-home test,” she said. “(It could tell whether) your grapes are fine, your grapes are really bad or you should send your grapes in to get tested for it.”

The researchers are also working on a process to remove the thiophenals if they are in wine so it can still be sold.

They are building a new testing lab on campus, which they expect to handle wine from many more Oregon wineries.