Smoke Taint Information for Wine Producers

Wildfires are raging in the West once again and many vineyards still have fruit on the vine. Even if a vineyard has been spared from the ravages of fire, extreme smoke conditions can taint the grapes. Our risk management specialists have outlined the conditions required to determine damage from smoke taint. You can reference the guidelines below when talking to your crop insurance agent about filing a claim.

There are three criteria used to determine if wine grapes have been tainted by smoke. At least one of these criteria must be met to be eligible for a crop insurance claim.

  1. The fruit is rejected prior to harvest.
    You will need to obtain a smoke taint test from a lab. You will also need a rejection letter from the winery stating what fruit is being rejected and the reason (smoke taint due to multiple wildfires, etc.). You will be assessed a harvest fee for unharvested fruit. That fee will vary based on the county; the fee in Sonoma County is $200/ton.
  2. Fruit is harvested and then juice needs to be disposed of.
    You still need the smoke taint test prior to harvest and a letter from the winery. The winery will need to keep that juice separate and the insurance company has the right to witness disposal. We will need to notify the company on where and when the disposal will take place. If the juice is mixed and loses its identity, it is no longer covered.
  3. Fruit is harvested and made into wine, but the price is reduced due to smoke.
    You may be eligible for payment based on the Quality Adjustment Calculation. This will depend on how many tons are harvested and the price. A smoke taint test is still needed prior to harvest accompanied by a letter from the winery.

Testing must be performed in the field prior to harvest. Once the crop has been harvested, insurance ceases and a test after harvest does not provide sufficient evidence of damage during the insurance period.

ETS Laboratories is a qualified lab for smoke taint tests. Click here for more information.

 How to Contact a Local Insurance Agent

To be connected with a licensed agent in your area, please visit our agent locator page here.

This material is for informational purposes only and cannot be relied on to replace your own judgment or that of the risk management professionals you work with, in assessing the accuracy or relevance of the information to your own operations.