Bushfire Technical Response Program

The Wine Victoria Bushfire Technical Response Program aims to undertake the delivery of a package of technical support activities for Victorian wine industry participants affected by exposure to bushfire smoke during the 2019-20 growing season. While there is a focus on wine regions directly affected by smoke, the program seeks to deliver statewide benefits where possible. 

Former Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes announced $990,000 in May 2020 to support a program delivered in partnership with Wine Victoria that will help winemakers assess and remediate the effects of smoke exposure on wines being made from the 2020 harvest. The program includes online technical workshops on recognising and addressing the effects of smoke exposure, evaluation of 2020 wines by expert sensory panels, support to produce test batches for evaluation and access to a benchmarking kit to help winemakers assess their own wines. 

The program will also include winemaking trials to evaluate techniques for treating smoke-affected wines and research activities to better characterise the impacts of smoke on a range of locally important varieties. A steering committee made up of the Victorian Government, Wine Victoria and representatives from affected wine regions will oversee the program, which will be rolled out immediately and run until September 2021. 

As part of the Bushfire Technical Response Program, Wine Victoria ran five Regional Smoke Taint Sensory Panel Workshops across Victoria in February 2021. These were presented by The Australian Wine Research Institute. The purpose of these workshops was to establish regional smoke taint sensory assessment panels across regional Victoria that can reproducibly assess smoke characters in micro-ferments and finished wines following future smoke events. Wine Victoria will be running further smoke taint assessment workshops after vintage, we will keep you advised of dates and venues.

Smoke Taint Benchmarking Sensory Kits have now been distributed to those who registered interest.

During the 2019/2020 bushfire season in Australia extensive testing of grape and wine samples for smoke markers was conducted by both the Vintessential laboratories based in Victoria and the AWRI Commercial Services laboratories based in South Australia. A number of observers commented that the results from the two laboratories appeared to be inconsistent and a greater understanding of how they related was needed. For this reason, a comparative study was commissioned by Wine Victoria as part of the Bushfire Technical Response Program.

The completed cross validation report prepared by Eric Wilkes (AWRI Commercial Services) and Greg Howell (Vintessential Laboratories) is now available for download.