Protecting your brand at all costs. How far will you go to protect your brand’s integrity?
Imagine working for a full season growing wine grapes in the Napa Valley–one of the world’s premier wine-growing regions–and be faced with scrapping your entire crop.
The extraordinary 2020 California wildfires put winemakers at this level of financial risk and loss. But, it may not be for the reason you think.
California wines are amongst the best in the world. Winemakers worked hard to achieve this status and will do whatever is necessary to preserve this status even if it means scrapping the entire crop.
Smoke taint is a condition that impacts wine grapes before they are harvested. Here’s a description of smoke taint from the article Understanding Smoke Taint:
The general consensus from those who’ve encountered smoke taint is that you’ll know it when you taste it. It’s not the typical smoky characteristics associated with wines aged in toasted oak barrels. Common descriptors for smoke-tainted wines include burnt, medicinal and campfire. “Smoke taint is pretty obvious,” said Rick Davis, owner of Calstar Cellars in Santa Rosa, Calif. “The best descriptor I’ve heard for the flavor profile of a smoke-tainted wine was that if you’re particularly fond of licking wet ash trays, you’ll like this wine.”
As its name may tell you, smoke taint happens when grapes are exposed to smoke, but it’s more than just residue sitting on the grapes that cause these unpleasant flavors—and you can’t just rinse it off. When wood burns, it releases aroma compounds called volatile phenols. In the vineyard, these compounds can permeate the grape skins and rapidly bond with the sugars inside to form molecules called glycosides.
This process, called glycosylation, renders the phenols no longer volatile, meaning their smokiness cannot be detected by smell or taste. However, once the grapes are fermented, the acidity in the resulting wine will begin to break these bonds, rendering the phenols volatile once again.
This typically happens during fermentation, but can continue to occur after the wine has been bottled. It can even happen right as you take a sip: The enzymes in your mouth are able to break down any glycosides that remain, and the undesirable aromas can be vaporized as you taste—a wine might smell fine but taste off.
At this point in the growing and harvesting season, winemakers are sending their grapes out to labs for testing. There’s a 30-day backlog of testing at this point due to the huge geographic coverage of the smoke. Some growers will need to incur the cost of the harvest while they await test results. Of course, smoke continues to permeate the air in California so the lab results will only be an indicator. 30 more days of smoke will only deteriorate the grape quality.
Are you going this far to protect the quality, integrity, and reputation of your products and brand?
Thought for the week:
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” – Seneca