GIPPSLAND’S 2020 wines will be better than ever despite concerns of smoke taint from recent bushfires, Wine Gippsland has said.

Alistair Hicks, president of Wine Gippsland and owner of Blue Gables Vineyard in Maffra said for the majority of Gippsland, smoke taint has been minimal, if not non-existent.

And although yields will be smaller this year due a windy spring and therefore poor pollination period, Mr Hicks said that means quality is higher because smaller berries and bunches can pack more flavour.

Alistair Hicks, owner of Blue Gables Vineyard said smoke taint has not been an issue for the majority of Gippsland grape growers.

Only five wineries in far East Gippsland which were close to the Bairnsdale fires have had compromised harvests due to smoke taint, Mr Hicks said last month.

He explained that smoke taint is the intake of smoke into the skins of grapes.

“The closer you get to harvest time, the more pronounced that affect can be on the resulting wine,” he said.

“The severity increases as smoke gets more intense and the closer the proximity of the fires to your property.

“Because the fires were early January, all vineyards were a long way from harvest and so the smoke intake into the fruit was minimal,” he said.

Mr Hicks also explained that red wines are at a higher risk of being compromised from smoke taint than white wines.

Red wine is more at risk of smoke taint than white wine because the wine-making process involves soaking the skin.

When making red wine, grapes are soaked with the skin on for a couple weeks during ferment, whereas with white wines, grapes generally have their skins pressed off immediately.

For South and West Gippsland, fruit tested by the Australian Wine Research Institute has come back with clear results.

Mr Hick’s vineyard Blue Gables, which is located near Lake Glen Maggie, was about 120km from January’s fires.

“We had a bit of smoke for about three days that impacted our business from a tourism perspective with our cellar door,” Mr Hicks said.

“That has been the biggest negative impact on our industry in terms of tourism and cellar doors, more than any effect of smoke.

“If restaurants and pubs can’t trade, then that’s another avenue where our income stream has dried up,” Mr Hicks said.

Wine lovers can still support their local wineries through online orders.

“People can ring up the wineries direct in Gippsland and get on their websites and wineries will be more than happy to supply,” he said.

For more information and contact details for local wineries, visit their website.