Impact of forest fire smoke on fruit for distilling

Little or nothing to do with distillation.

Moderator: Site Moderator

Post Reply
OtisT
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2334
Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2015 11:59 am
Location: Pacific Northwest

Impact of forest fire smoke on fruit for distilling

Post by OtisT » Fri Sep 11, 2020 3:27 pm

Hi folks. I’m curious about the impact of forest fire smoke on fruit for distilling.

Currently, massive climate change induced fires rage across the western US. Orange skies and the sickly smell of creosote and other nasties extend across the major fruit growing regions of CA, OR, WA and more. Other countries like Australia also see this kind of large scale devastation all too frequently.

One thing I have read is that wine makers will not use grapes grown downwind of fires like these. Right now, that means a massive super mega shit ton of fruit will go to waste this year. Sad.

I’m curious what folks know about fermenting/distilling grapes or other fruit that was grown downwind of major fires like these. I assume that smell will carry through a ferment and distillation (think peated whiskey) but that’s just my guess. Not sure if washing will be enough. What has been your experience with this?

Otis
Otis’ Pot and Thumper, Dimroth Condenser: Pot-n-Thumper/Dimroth
Learning to Toast: Toasting Wood
Polishing Spirits with Fruitwood: Fruitwood
Badmotivator’s Barrels: Badmo Barrels

User avatar
Deplorable
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 603
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 12:10 pm
Location: PNW

Re: Impact of forest fire smoke on fruit for distilling

Post by Deplorable » Fri Sep 11, 2020 4:20 pm

I was thinking about this on my way to work, as grape harvest is picking up and my friends at Leony's Cellars are about to start picking up their orders. I'll have to ask him his thoughts on the smoke.
Use all your senses, and its not that hard. You just have to pay attention.

Beerswimmer
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 740
Joined: Tue Sep 29, 2009 1:33 pm
Location: In the garage

Re: Impact of forest fire smoke on fruit for distilling

Post by Beerswimmer » Fri Sep 11, 2020 5:25 pm

I'd guess it'll be detectable. My friend had a case of wine at his wedding that was near a fire and it was very obvious in the wine. Very, very good too.
Ut Alii Vivant!!!!

User avatar
Yummyrum
Global moderator
Posts: 3255
Joined: Sat Jul 06, 2013 2:23 am
Location: Mid North Coast Aussie

Re: Impact of forest fire smoke on fruit for distilling

Post by Yummyrum » Fri Sep 11, 2020 8:00 pm

Is the no use of fruit a health reason or just wine snobbery ?
If its not for health reasons , it seems to me that its a shear waste of good fruit . Man we have had so much wastage this year ,for one reason or other . Smokey grappa sounds like a winner to me

But what is in that smoke when it has consumed homes, factories and vehicles ,
While there are chemical nasties that may end up in wine , would they distill over .?

User avatar
Chauncey
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 1071
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2016 1:30 am
Location: NOLA

Re: Impact of forest fire smoke on fruit for distilling

Post by Chauncey » Fri Sep 11, 2020 9:14 pm

That was my first thought, smokey grappa sounds good, but that smoke may be toxic its not like its all white oak and mesquite. Everything from evergreens to synthetics and even animals mixed in those clouds
<no stopping to corner anytime [] no parking passenger zone>

User avatar
Deplorable
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 603
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 12:10 pm
Location: PNW

Re: Impact of forest fire smoke on fruit for distilling

Post by Deplorable » Fri Sep 11, 2020 9:38 pm

This is what I got from Salvador at Leony's Cellars
"It really all depends on the intensity of the smoke and how long it lingers in the vineyard. If the smoke is not too intense it will add subtle smokiness to the finished wines what could impart smokey aromas. Too much smoke obviously could impart some unpleasant aromas in the grapes affected by it."

Personally, I think that smoke in my white wines would be off-putting. but I'd welcome it in Malbecs, Merlots, and Cabs.
Larger wineries that buy from multiple AVAs would likely blend the wines from different AVAs to reduce the aromas if needed, and still make a great red blend.
Further, I would suspect, ( and I may have to discuss this with Salvador over a glass of wine) you could play with the yeast strains and impart some aromas that would mask or reduce the smokiness of the affected grapes.
The last time we had big fires in Washington, the wines were not bad at all from any of the AVAs I had wines from.
There were great Malbecs, Cab-Francs and Merlots after the fires in 2012 that affected AVAs in Okanogan, Chelan, and the columbia basin.
As a Matter of fact, some of my favorite red wines are 2012's that I need to start drinking before they turn.
The Blue Creek fire in 2015 also made some smokey wines from the AVAs around Walla Walla.
Then there was the Carlton Complex fire in 2014 that burned over 250,000 acres. I dont recall a wine shortage that year...
Use all your senses, and its not that hard. You just have to pay attention.

zach
Bootlegger
Posts: 144
Joined: Tue Mar 17, 2015 8:42 am

Re: Impact of forest fire smoke on fruit for distilling

Post by zach » Tue Sep 15, 2020 3:46 pm

I picked some zinfandel in the Lodi AVA last week. The visibility was less than 3 miles due to smoke. The brix was low 17-22, but there were enough raisins that I might be ok for a decent wine. I'll press next weekend and we'll see if the grappa is smokey.

Post Reply