The Wines of Change

Woman scientist conducts tests in winery laboratory
Anita Oberholster uses a large pipette to grab a sample of smoke-exposed wine that’s been sitting in fermentation tanks. (Joe Proudman/UC Davis)

California is famous for its wine—and for its increasingly extreme weather. In recent years, the state’s winemakers and growers have had to face drought, heat waves, wildfires, smoke and an entirely warmer climate. These threats aren’t going away soon. But UC Davis, which boasts one of the nation’s leading viticulture and enology programs, is on the case.

A recent feature story, “When Smoke Gets in Your Wine,” by UC Davis writer Chris Macias, introduces readers to a number of faculty who are working with wine industry partners to find drought-tolerant rootstocks, solutions to smoke-tainted harvests, and other ways grape growers can adapt to present and future changes. The piece also explores some of the myths and mysteries of smoke taint. An excerpt:

Number one, are we looking at the right molecules?’ Oberholster said. ‘We can’t fully assess smoke-related issues if we don’t completely understand the nature of the compounds at play.”

Smoke barriers are also on Oberholster’s radar. She wonders if a spray could be developed that growers could use to protect grapes from the harmful compounds that burning woods emit.

Additionally, Oberholster hopes to see the development of low-cost sensors that support growers’ ability to estimate smoke-taint risk.

Read the full story and learn more ways UC Davis is helping to feed—and “hydrate”—a growing population at


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Kat Kerlin is an environmental science writer and media relations specialist at UC Davis. She’s the editor of UC Davis Science & Climate and its “What Can I Do About Climate Change?” blog. @UCDavis_Kerlin

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