Management of grapes and wine after smoke events

Page last updated: Monday, 19 December 2016 - 9:43am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

When grapevines are exposed to smoke during sensitive growth stages, the resulting wine may contain smoke-related aromas and flavours.

Smoke arises from sources such as bushfires and controlled burns. It would be ideal to avoid smoke exposure of grapevines during the growing season, however this may not be possible.

It is therefore imperative that actions and techniques to reduce the negative effects of smoke exposure of wine grapes are available. These can be useful if an event is imminent, if a fuel-reduction fire is planned, or an event has occurred.

If a smoke event is imminent

Seasonal prescribed burn information

Fires can be planned or unplanned. Planned fires, or prescribed burns, may be conducted by forest management agencies, local shires, local and volunteer bushfire brigades and landholders.

Lighting fires is restricted during summer when smoke is most damaging to wine grape production. However, fires can still occur especially when fruit production coincides with autumn fires.

State forest management departments may conduct management activities that produce smoke, including prescribed burning. In Western Australia, the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) conducts prescribed burns in spring and autumn. These are undertaken for a variety of purposes that include:

  • reduction of forest fuel loads to minimise wildfires
  • protection of life, property and the community
  • enhancement of biodiversity values
  • to rehabilitate vegetation after timber or mining activities
  • to research fire effects and fire interaction with the environment.

DPaW uses a Master Burn Plan in order to identify the areas requiring prescribed burning for the coming year and indicate the burning schedule for three years into the future. Information on the timing of prescribed burns is communicated widely to industry and the community. This information is readily available from the DPaW website at or by phoning +61 (0)8 9219 9000. In other states, contact your relevant forest management department.

Registration of sensitive sites

‘Sensitive Sites WA’ is a DAFWA service designed to help locate sensitive agricultural production systems within the agricultural regions. A sensitive site is defined as a property whose owner and DAFWA believe may be sensitive to impact from activities on nearby land. This service aims to assist with risk assessment and risk mitigation plans for ongoing production and to help protect these sensitive agricultural production systems.

Examples of sensitive sites include production certified as organic and/or biodynamic and viticulture. Specific examples of activities on neighbouring lands that are known to impact on wine grape production include:

  • smoke effect in grapes and wine from planned and unplanned fires
  • off-target spray drift damage
  • eucalyptus characteristics in wine from adjoining blue gum plantations
  • pest and disease risks from neglected vineyards.

Properties identified as sensitive sites are defined on a map that is accessible on this website. If you wish to register your interest for inclusion of your property email or telephone +61 (0)8 9368 3333.

Formalising end of harvest dates

In order to reduce potential conflicts between smoke events and wine grape production, many strategies can be employed.

Producers can communicate key grapevine growth stages regularly to forest management agencies and local shires, particularly the key ripening timing, to reduce potential conflicts.

Ideally, central communication points could be established in each region for disseminating information, where both formal and informal communication can be used. These strategies would be individual to each region and could include:

  • Regional wine producing groups to register their interest in communicating end of harvest dates with local shires and forest management agencies
  • Organisation of a central communication point within each agency involved
  • Wine producers to provide regular (weekly) feedback on the progress and timing of harvest dates to their regional association
  • Central communication points to collect end of harvest timing from grape producers and communicate these to forest management agencies and local shires
  • Central communication point to provide regular feedback and communication between forest management agencies, local shires and wine grape producers.

Contact information

Glynn Ward
+61 (0)8 9368 3568