DAVIS, Calif. — Wine Enthusiast Magazine has named UC Davis enologist Anita Oberholster and two of her colleagues from other universities “Innovators of the Year” for their research on the effects of wildfire smoke on wine grapes.
Oberholster, who is a Cooperative Extension specialist, joins Tom Collins of Washington State University and Elizabeth Tomasino of Oregon State University in receiving the recognition in the magazine’s annual Wine Star Awards, which recognize individuals and companies making outstanding contributions to the wine and alcohol beverage industry. The awards are revered as among the most prestigious in the global wine industry.
“I am very honored to be recognized alongside my colleagues for our efforts to find innovative solutions to current challenges facing the grape and wine industry,” Oberholster said. “I would also like to thank the many grape and wine industry entities and individuals that have used their influence to support our efforts to obtain funding and those that have directly supported my work.”
Oberholster and colleagues are researching how smoke affects grapes, grapevines, wine composition and sensory perception of wine in a glass. The research team calls this an understanding of smoke exposure from “smoke to glass.” Grapes exposed to wildfire smoke can result in smoke taint, a condition that can make wine taste ashy or burnt.
The researchers are using real-time sensor networks to assess the risk of smoke in a vineyard. They are also researching barriers or coatings that could reduce or prevent grapes from smoke exposure. They hope to ensure that the US wine industry can produce high quality wines irrespective of wildfires.