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How Does Smoke Damage Affect My Winery Insurance Claim?

Although the California wildfires are now history, thousands of families and businessmen are going to be affected by their destruction for years to come. The insurance claim process has started for many families, but some winery and vineyard owners may be unprepared for their insurance claims. In some cases, winery owners may not even realize that their crops have been destroyed.

How is this possible? Through the poisons of smoke taint.

A researcher from Curtin University of Technology began studying smoke taint and its effect on vineyards and wines in the early 1990s. He claims that in 2007, approximately $70 to $90 million (AU) in grapes were destroyed in Australia due to smoke taint.

Research shows that any and all vineyard grapes are susceptible to smoke taint, but grapes that are exposed to smoke early in their development are more likely to taste “smoky.” Research concludes that grapes exposed to just 30 minutes of smoke is enough to result in smoke tainted wine that is noticeable to the human palate.

While smoke tainted aromas do not pass from one harvest year to another, smoke damage is proven to affect the shoot length and the grape yield of future harvests. Therefore, smoke damage is proven to affect future yields in addition to current harvests.

How to Mitigate & Reduce Smoke Damage

While smoke taint is not completely irreversible, there are certain things that a winery or vineyard can do to mitigate and reduce smoke damage:

  • Process potentially smoke tainted lots separate from other lots.
  • Harvest grapes by hand and remove leaves / MOG as much as possible.
  • For white wines, remove the juice from the skin as quickly as possible.
  • Whole cluster press, use gentle pressing, and separate press fractions.
  • Avoid cold soaking and skin contact for red grapes.
  • Blend smoke tainted grapes with other lots. They must be diluted in measurements of 10:1, up to 50:1, depending on the type of grape and the amount of smoke damage

WineTech is a Napa Valley company that filters wine in the California area. They have smoke taint treatments that can help wineries and vineyards that were affected by the California wildfires. This process costs money, but it may be covered under insurance claims.

Will Insurance Cover My Smoke Taint Treatments?

Not many insurance adjusters understand that smoke taint poses a major threat to a winery or vineyard.

Want to see if smoke taint treatment would be covered by your insurance claim?

  1. Notify your insurance company that your grapes have smoke taint. Allowing them to assess the damage before pursuing smoke taint treatment is important. You should collect as much evidence as possible to show that your crop has suffered smoke taint.
  2. Check your insurance policy to see if your grapes are covered. “Crop insurance” should cover grapes that are on the vine and have been affected by smoke taint. However, crop insurance must be stated in the insurance policy. For harvested grapes or vats of wine that are affected by smoke, insurance coverage should fall under the general property policy.
  3. Document the hiring of a company that specializes in treating smoke taint. An insurance company needs proof of the services that you hired to resolve your smoke tainted grapes. Make sure to keep receipts that prove the charges and services you bought.
  4. If your insurance company refutes your smoke taint claim, hire an insurance claim lawyer. We at Arnold & Itkin have won billions of dollars for our clients. In addition to our legal prowess, one of the firm’s founders, Jason Itkin, owns a local vineyard in Napa Valley. He is an attorney who cares about wine and understands how smoke taint can truly ruin a crop.

If your smoke taint claim has been rejected, call (888) 493-1629 for a free case evaluation. Arnold & Itkin know how to fight for wineries and vineyards with smoke taint!

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