|Credit: The New York Times|
HUNTER VALLEY, Australia — The hills are lush and green, the grapes plump and ripe. But one bite of this famed valley’s most prized product reveals a winemaker’s worst nightmare.
“It’s like licking an ashtray,” said Iain Riggs, a vintner here. “It’s really rank and bitter.”
The bush fires that raged for eight months in southeastern Australia inflicted widespread damage on the vineyards of the Hunter Valley, not directly from flames, but through the invisible taint of smoke....
...The winemakers there have become chemists as they try to determine which grapes can be salvaged. Labeled glass beakers cover desks and shelves in the main office, and sheets with lists of numbers and ingredients are entered into computers.
Testing grape sugars for compounds confirming smoke taint is a tricky business. Mr. Riggs calls it the “dark arts”; even with all the numbers in front of him, it’s a guessing game. The grapes themselves “look terrific,” he said, and “that’s why it’s so insidious.”Surely some scientists have a means of testing grapes to detect smoke compounds? and at what level they're at?