Fire Management and Vineyards
Grapevines that are exposed to smoke can be at risk of producing a wine that is affected by smoke taint. Smoke tainted wines are unpalatable and therefore unsaleable. When vineyards and grapes are exposed to smoke this can result in wines with undesirable sensory characters, such as smoky, burnt, ashy or medicinal, usually described as ‘smoke tainted’. The key factors that determine whether smoke-exposed grapes become tainted are the grapevine growth stage, grape variety, smoke composition and the length of smoke exposure. If you are lighting a fire, it is important to understand the effects of smoke taint and to know when during the growing season wine grapes are susceptible to smoke. The highest risk period for wine grapes is from veraison to harvest, which can occur from late January through to May/June. Smoke taint can occur in extreme conditions at any time that there is fruit on the vine.
A very good scientific guide on minimising the impact of prescribed burns on wine-grape production from the Australian Wine Research Institute is available here.
More scientific information on smoke taint can be found on the Australian Wine Research Institute's website.
Please view the Neighbourhood Guide above to understand the devastating impact fire and smoke can have on vineyards. If you are lighting a fire, please consult with owners of neighbouring vineyards to discuss potential plans and timing, and to ensure you do not inadvertently cause irreparable damage to their livelihood.
We recommend you consult with local vineyards well in advance of lighting a fire to make sure you minimise negative impacts on neighbouring vineyards. A short postponement of a fire may be all that's needed to avoid smoke damage. Find out and get in touch with vineyards which may be affected by your fire on TasVine Map.
Are you lighting a fire?
We all share the same landscape in Tasmania and need to work together. If you are planning a fire and wish to minimise impacts on nearby vineyards:
- Consult with vineyard owners well in advance of any planned fire activity. Early consultation will lead to better experiences.
- Burn outside wine grape ripening periods (January - May). There is zero risk of smoke taint if grapes are yet to appear on the vines. Spring is an excellent time to consider planned burns, with zero impacts on the wine sector.
- Should something go wrong, engage with those affected. If fires on your property have inadvertently impacted a neighbouring vineyard, it is important to take responsibility. Some suggested activities could be:
- offering to pay for wine grapes to be tested for smoke taint
- offering compensation for wine grapes and income lost as a result of your fire
100% of the financial risk of something going wrong with a fire or an unanticipated smoke event is carried by the vineyard / wine business.