Cassegrain Wines in Port Macquarie is leading a $2.3 million research project into the management of grapes exposed to bushfire smoke.
The winery is one of 29 Australian companies to take on cooperative research into the effects of 'smoke taint' over the next three years. The research is expected to guide future commercial strategies used by the international winemaking industry.
Smoke taint occurs when vineyards and grapes are exposed to smoke resulting in bushfire compounds binding to grape skins. Wines with smoke taint may have a smoky, burnt, ashy or medicinal taste after fermentation process.
Cassegrain Wines senior winemaker Alex Cassegrain said the project would research different technologies including molecular imprinted polymers, nanofiltration, activated carbon and enzyme hydrolysis.
"I am very pleased to be working with Australia's leading wine scientists and using the latest, ground- breaking technologies to develop new ways of mitigating the impacts of smoke taint," Mr Cassegrain said.
"At the moment there are a lot of unknowns about grapes impacted by smoke. Do you pick them early? How do you remove it? Is there anyway to mitigate any issues?
"Something we did earlier this year was to press the grapes very quickly to reduce the time on skins. The research must determine the compounds from bushfire smoke and how they affect grapes.
"This has worldwide considerations because Australia has had fires in Victoria, South Australia but also there has been fires in California, south of France. Every grape growing region will eventually come across these issues.
"What's perceived to be a fault can add complexity to a wine (such as smoke taint) but we must have an understanding of what we are doing and why we are doing it. We need to know what will happen to that addition in five or ten years time."
Around 40,000 tonnes of grapes were lost across Australia during the 2019-20 bushfires. The Australian Wine Industry generates $45.5 billion for the Australian economy and creates employment for nearly 165,000 people, according to a 2019 Wine Australia report.
Federal Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan said it was a great win for the regional to have a local winery successfully take on the Cooperative Research Centres Project.
"Cassegrain Wines has sought to be innovative and do something positive from what was a horrific bushfire season in our area," he said.
"Cassegrain Wines will receive $950,000 from our Government to research novel ways of managing smoke taint.
"This exciting, collaborative project will draw on the expertise of University of Adelaide Professor of Oenology Kerry Wilkinson and work with grape growers from eight different regions across New South Wales impacted by the bushfires."
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrewssaid the research will improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of Australian industries.
"Now more than ever it is vital businesses and researchers work together to collaborate on outcomes which will generate opportunities and jobs as the nation continues its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic," she said.
"The $25 million in support from round nine of the Cooperative Research Centres Projects will unlock a further $58 million of cash and in-kind contributions from 52 project partners."
The current coronavirus pandemic has also momentarily disrupted schedule exports of Cassegrain wine to Japan and China, according to Mr Cassegrain.
"The clients we have over there in China, Japan and international markets we are still in contact with. They still have supplies that will keep them out of trouble," he said.
"It's too early to say when normal exports will resume. A lot of places we export to are still going through various different phases of COVID.
"Obviously we will wait to see what happens and when they put an order in we will be ready to go."