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UBC researchers protecting Okanagan wine grapes from wildfire smoke

A common agricultural spray may be the key to preventing smoky flavour in wine grapes.

A team of researchers at UBC Okanagan believe a common agricultural spray may do the trick in preventing smoky flavour in wine.

It’s a problem plaguing grape growers worldwide in an ever-changing climate, to protect their crops from the undesirable effects of wildfire smoke exposure.

“When you look at the catastrophic wildfire seasons California and the Okanagan Valley have experienced in recent years, and the season Australia is experiencing now, I don’t think a solution can come quickly enough,” said Wesley Zandberg, a UBC Okanagan assistant chemistry professor.

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The recent study led to the development of a preventative strategy for protecting grapes from volatile phenols, the flavoured compounds present in smoke that may be absorbed into ripening grapes and subsequently impact wine flavor.

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According to Zandberg, when wine grapes absorb compounds from smoke, the grapes react by coating the compounds in sugar using their enzymes.

This sugar-coating masks the smoky odour and taste of volatile phenols until it’s released again during the fermentation process.

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The team found that applying an agricultural spray composed of phospholipids to wine grapes once a week significantly reduced the levels of volatile phenols measured in smoke-exposed grapes.

For UBC Okanagan, it’s the people and their livelihoods that keep them determined to find a solution.

The research team is still working on replicating and refining these results to alleviate crop losses experienced globally by the wine industry.

Mental health summit held at UBC Okanagan
Mental health summit held at UBC Okanagan