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Too early to say if smoke has tainted wine grapes

There is a way you can help Okanagan wineries pummelled by the triple-whammy of wildfire-related closures, staff and visitor shortages.

You can continue to buy their wine.

That's right, while most wineries are closed currently, you can still buy their wines at government and private liquor stores, select grocery stores and at restaurants.

And wineries are continuing online sales so you can order from their websites and have the wine delivered directly to your home or workplace.

"We encourage the public to continue to support your favourite local suppliers and producers directly or via their online boutiques," a news release from Wine Growers of British Columbia said.

"Your support is crucial during this pivotal time of year and the businesses truly appreciate it."

Most Okanagan wineries are temporarily closed to the public due to the wildfires.

But even if they were open, few would be visiting as thick smoke smothers the Valley, people are preoccupied with evacuation orders and alerts, including winery employees, and tourists are staying away.

On top of that, the same smoke that's thwarting locals and tourists is also a hazard to grapes.

Extended exposure to smoke can taint grapes making them useless to make wine.

</who>Wildfire smoke can taint wine grapes, but it's too soon to say if that's happened this year.

"It is too early to know whether the wildfires will impact this vintage for select producers in the impacted regions," reads the same news release issued by Wine Growers British Columbia.

"The study of how smoke impacts finished wine is evolving and depends on many variables and we will provide updates once the situation becomes clearer."

In 2021, the extreme heat dome, wildfires and resulting smoke meant a couple of wineries ended up with grapes they didn't bother making into wine.

Before any of these most recent wildfire-related problems, the Okanagan wine industry was already dealing with a much smaller crop because extreme cold weather over the winter damaged vines and their ability to produce grapes.

Wine Growers British Columbia calls it all: "The devastating impacts of climate change."

In addition, the emergency order issued on Aug. 19 restricting non-essential travel to the Okanagan means tourists are steering clear of the Valley.

As mentioned above, even if there wasn't an emergency order, tourists wouldn't be coming here because of the smoke, Kelowna airport's closure to most passenger flights and many tourism businesses being closed.

"We are asking everyone to please postpone their trips to the Okanagan until a time when wineries will be in a better position to welcome you," continued the news release.

</who> Mission Hill Winery in West Kelowna, like many other wineries in the Central Okanagan, isn't threatened by wildfires, but is temporarily closed out of an abundance of caution, staff shortages and visitor shortages.

While wine tourism in the Okanagan is all but dried up currently, the industry is usually robust.

The BC wine sector has a $3.75 billion annual economic impact with almost 2 million visitors every year.

Wine Growers British Columbia is the voice of the wine industry in the province, markets the wine and the wine regions of BC and puts on trade, media and consumer tastings.

The group reminds consumers that while many Okanagan wineries are closed during this wildfire crisis, wineries in the Thompson, Fraser Valley, Kootenays, Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands are open.

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