Profiling Potentially Smoke Tainted Red Wines: Volatile Phenols and Aroma Attributes

M. McKay, F.F. Bauer, V. Panzeri, L. Mokwena, A. Buica


Malodourous compounds, including volatile phenols (VPs) are frequently found at concentrations below their odour thresholds in wine, and may therefore be considered to present no threat to wine quality. Most investigations into smoke taint quantify compounds by chemical/analytical means, or investigate sensory effects of supra- and peri-threshold contamination in model wine. In this project, twelve wines (submitted by the South African industry as potentially smoke tainted) were screened for VPs using GC-MS, and characterized using descriptive analysis (DA) by a sensory panel highly trained in smoke taint evaluation.  Results were compared statistically to elucidate relationships between chemical and sensory characteristics.  It was demonstrated, using the combined dataset that concentration and composition of VPs in the wines correlated well with certain sensory attributes. Guaiacol was present in most samples at peri- or suprathreshold
levels, but was not correlated with taint unless in combination with other phenols, in which case it was associated with ‘smoky’, ‘ashy’ and ‘herbaceous’ attributes. Wines with supra-threshold levels of VPs showed negative attributes (‘chemical / plastic’, ‘tar / BR’ and ‘medicinal / Elastoplast™’). In some cases, sensory effects (‘earthy / dusty / potato skin’, ‘mouldy / musty’ and ‘cooked vegetables (veg.)’) could not be attributed to supra-threshold VP contamination, and therefore seemed to be due to combinations of VPs at subthreshold levels. Associations between negative attributes and historical bushfire events prior to harvest were found for a number of the wines. This study emphasizes the importance of understanding effects of VPs on wine aroma, and escalating awareness and sensitivity to these issues in the wine industry.


volatile phenols; smoke taint; wine sensory evaluation; GC-MS; DA;

Full Text:



Barnes, T., 2018. Portugal wildfires Indep. (London) 5 August: News/World/Europe.

Boidron, J.N., Chatonnet, P., et al., 1988. Influence du bois sur certaines substances odorantes des vins Connaiss. la vigne du vin 22, 4, 275–294.

Campo, E., Ferreira, V., et al., 2005. Prediction of the Wine Sensory Properties Related to Grape Variety from Dynamic-Headspace Gas Chromatography−Olfactometry Data J. Agric. Food Chem. 53, 14, 5682–5690.

Campo, E., Ballester, J., et al., 2010. Comparison of conventional descriptive analysis and a citation frequency-based descriptive method for odor profiling: An application to Burgundy Pinot noir wines Food Qual. Prefer. 21, 1, 44–55.

Coetzee, C., Brand, J., et al., 2015. Sensory interaction between 3-mercaptohexan-1-ol, 3-isobutyl-2-methoxypyrazine and oxidation-related compounds Aust. J. Grape Wine Res. 21, 2, 179–188.

Coetzee, C., Brand, J., et al., 2016. Sensory effect of acetaldehyde on the perception of 3-mercaptohexan-1-ol and 3-isobutyl-2-methoxypyrazine Aust. J. Grape Wine Res. 22, 2, 197–204.

Cox, L., 2018. Sydney’s bushfire season starts in winter: “We may have to rethink how we live” Guard. Int. Ed. (Sydney, Australia)

Goldner, M.C. Zamore, M., Di Leo Lira, P., et al., 2009. Effects of ethanol level in the perception of aroma attributes and the volatile composition of red wines J. Sens. Stud. 24, 2, 243–257.

Goode, J., 2008. Burnt Rubber: The great South African wine debate Available at

Hammond, C.E., 2015. South African Wine Under Fire Available at

Hein, K., Ebeler, S., et al., 2009. Perception of fruity and vegetative aromas in red wine J. Sens. Stud. 24, 3, 441–455.

Heyns, E., 2014. The Green South African palate - When does mint become eucalyptus or even downright weedy? - Wineland Magazine Available at

Ilc, T., Werck-Reichhart, D., et al., 2016. Meta-Analysis of the Core Aroma Components of Grape and Wine Aroma Front. Plant Sci. 7, September, 1–15.

Jin, Y., Goulden, M.L., et al., 2015. Identification of two distinct fire regimes in Southern California: implications for economic impact and future change Environ. Res. Lett. 10, 9, 094005.

Kennison, K., 2013. Effect of smoke in grape and wine production Gov. West. Aust. Dep. Agric. Food Bull. Bulletin 4.

Kennison, K.R., Wilkinson, K.L., et al., 2009. Effect of timing and duration of grapevine exposure to smoke on the composition and sensory properties of wine Aust. J. Grape Wine Res. 15, 228–237.

Kennison, K.R., Wilkinson, K.L., et al., 2011. Effect of smoke application to field-grown Merlot grapevines at key phenological growth stages on wine sensory and chemical properties Aust. J. Grape Wine Res. 17, 2, 5–12.

Lapalus, E., Wessel, P., et al., 2016. Linking sensory attributes to selected aroma compounds in South African Cabernet Sauvignon wines, MSc thesis, Stellenbosch University.

Lorrain, B., Tempere, S., et al., 2013a. Influence of phenolic compounds on the sensorial perception and volatility of red wine esters in model solution: An insight at the molecular level Food Chem. 140, 1–2, 76–82.

Lorrain, B., Tempere, S., et al., 2013b. Influence of phenolic compounds on the sensorial perception and volatility of red wine esters in model solution: An insight at the molecular level Food Chem. 140, 1–2, 76–82.

Panzeri, V., 2013. Influence of vineyard posts type on the chemical and sensorial composition of Sauvignon blanc and Merlot noir wines. MSc Thesis, Stellenbosch University

Parker, B.M., Baldock, G., et al., 2013. Seeing through smoke Wine Vitic. J. 42–46.

Perez-Llamas, C. & Lopez-Bigas, N., 2011. Gitools: Analysis and Visualisation of Genomic Data Using Interactive Heat-Maps PLoS One 6, 5, e19541.

Petrozziello, M., Asproudi, A., et al., 2014. Influence of the matrix composition on the volatility and sensory perception of 4-ethylphenol and 4-ethylguaiacol in model wine solutions. Food Chem. 149, 197–202.

Ristic, R., Van Der Hulst, L., et al., 2017. Impact of Bottle Aging on Smoke-Tainted Wines from Different Grape Cultivars J. Agric. Food Chem. 65, 20, 4146–4152.

Romano, A., Perello, M.C., et al., 2009. Sensory and analytical re-evaluation of “Brett character” Food Chem. 114, 1, 15–19.

Strydom, S. & Savage, M.J., 2016. A spatio-temporal analysis of fires in South Africa South African J. Sci. J Sci 112, 11, 1–8.

Tempere, S., Schaaper, M.H., et al., 2017. Masking of Several Olfactory Notes by Infra-threshold Concentrations of 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole Chemosens. Percept. 10, 3, 69–80.

De Vries, C.J., Buica, A., et al., 2016. The Impact of Smoke From Vegetation Fires on Sensory Characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon Wines Made From Affected Grapes South African J. Enol. Vitic. 37, 1, 22–30.

De Vries, C.J., Mokwena, L.M., et al., 2016. Determination of Volatile Phenol in Cabernet Sauvignon Wines, Made from Smoke-affected Grapes, by using HS-SPME GC-MS. South African J. Enol. Vitic. 37, 1, 15–21.

Wilkinson, K.L., Ristic, R., et al., 2011. Comparison of methods for the analysis of smoke related phenols and their conjugates in grapes and wine Aust. J. Grape Wine Res. 17, 22–28.

Wilson, C.L., 2017. Chemical evaluation and sensory relevance of thiols in South African Chenin Blanc wines, MSc Thesis, Stellenbosch University.

Van Wyngaard, E., Brand, J., et al., 2014. Sensory interaction between 3-mercaptohexan-1-ol and 2-isobutyl-3-methoxypyrazine in dearomatised Sauvignon Blanc wine Aust. J. Grape Wine Res. 20, 2, 178–185.



  • There are currently no refbacks.