When vineyards have been exposed to smoke, this can result in wines with undesirable sensory characters, such as smoky, burnt, ashy or medicinal, often described as ‘smoke tainted’. To assess whether a product has a perceptible smoke character, a sensory panel rates the intensity of smoke aroma and flavour in wines. The results are analysed in comparison to a control sample to determine if the results are statistically significant.

Unfinished wines or small-lot fermentations can be evaluated using this method.

A specialised screened, qualified and trained smoke panel has been established. Panel members have demonstrated sensitivity to the smoke phenol compounds and their performance is monitored regularly.


Our team of sensory scientists each hold a diploma in Applied Sensory and Consumer Science from the University of California, Davis. They are all highly experienced in all aspects of statistical analysis and experimental design and work with wineries to develop assessments that meet their objectives.

Our state-of-the-art sensory laboratory is equipped to ISO standards with individual sensory booths to ensure a suitable environment for assessments. Separate panel and meeting rooms allow for in-depth discussion of products with assessors. The laboratory uses data acquisition software for flexible set-up of tests and collection of data.


Smoke sensory evaluation is best accompanied by chemical analysis to determine the concentration of volatile phenols and non-volatile precursor compounds (glycosides) in the samples. This assists with the interpretation of any perceived smoke character.

Useful links

Detailed information about smoke taint is available from the AWRI’s smoke taint webpage.

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