Although smoke exposure has been associated with the development of smoke taint in grapes and subsequently in wine, to date there have been no studies that have demonstrated a direct link. In this study, postharvest smoke exposure of grapes was utilized to demonstrate that smoke significantly influences the chemical composition and sensory characteristics of wine and causes an apparent 'smoke taint'. Verdelho grapes were exposed to straw-derived smoke for 1 h and then fermented according to two different winemaking treatments. Control wines were made by fermenting unsmoked grapes. Sensory studies established a perceivable difference between smoked and unsmoked wines; smoked wines were described as exhibiting 'smoky', 'dirty', 'earthy', 'burnt' and 'smoked meat' characteristics. Quantitative analysis, by means of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, identified guaiacol, 4-methylguaiacol, 4-ethylguaiacol, 4-ethylphenol, eugenol, and furfural in each of the wines made from smoked grapes. However, these compounds were not detected in the unsmoked wines, and their origin is therefore attributed to the application of smoke. Increased ethanol concentrations and browning were also observed in wines made from grapes exposed to smoke.