In my blog of last week, I wrote about the wineries' worries about smoke taint as a result of the wildfires in Oregon and California (scroll down below to see it). But after posting the article, I came to the realization that there needed to be more elaboration. Some of you may be wondering what smoke-tainted wine tastes like.
Smoke taint in wine occurs when smoke dust accumulates on the skins of the grapes. The degree of taint can depend on the intensity and duration of exposure. In mid-September, a thick blanket of smoke blew from Northern California through Western Oregon and on across Eastern Washington. The effects have been devastating in California and Oregon, but, so far, the effects have not been particularly noticeable (see the article below for Ashley Trout's experience).
So what does smoke taint in wine taste like? Well, it has been described as smelling like an ashtray, or sometimes like campfire embers. On the palate, the sensations can be akin to burnt cardboard. But not all smoke sensations are due to smoke taint. Sometimes wines are described as being smoky or having scents of incense, which is the result of phenolic compounds in the wine. Certain varieties such as Cabernet Franc or Petite Sirah are frequently described as being smoky. Also, smokiness can come from the toasted oak barrels in which the wine is aged.
I have not tasted a lot of wines that have been affected by smoke taint. Most wines that have been significantly affected never make it into the market. Sometimes affected wines may be sold off and blended with enough untainted wine to dilute the taint. Or sometimes the taint is only slight and gets sold as such. An example is the Nefarious Cellars Mother Rock Estate Syrah which was affected by the Carlton wildfire of 2014 which was sold as the "Firestorm" Syrah. In the August issue, of the Review of Washington Wines, I described it as having an aroma of "wood smoke (but not obtrusively so)." The wine scored 19/20 points and it would have been 19.5/20 if it were not for the slight smoke taint. The wine was sold for $25 a bottle instead of the regular $45, which made it a bargain (the wine is now sold out).
So, in conclusion, there can be varying degrees of wildfire smoke taint from negligible to pronounced.
A Super Rhone Red Wine Buy from Esquin
Back on April 30, I posted a blog article on European wines from Esquin Wine & Spirits. One of the wines was the 2017 Domaine de la Pelaquie Lirac which comes comes from across the Rhone River from Tavel, A 70% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre combination, it offered rich aromas of dark fruits and direct, generous flavors. It scored 81+/20 points, making it a great buy at $15.99 a bottle. Esquin has it back in stock and I recommend it highly at this price.