The Analytical Services Laboratory, part of the Wine/Enology Grape Chemistry Group at Virginia Tech, was established to fulfill the analysis requirements of the regional wine industry.  The goal of this analysis program is to provide very rapid turn-around, with optimum precision and accuracy.

Designed as a fee-based, full-service enology laboratory, we provide chemical, physical, microbiological and sensory analyses, including standardized reagents.  The services are available to wineries in any state, including importers and wholesalers.  Additionally we provide analytic procedures to the individual wineries as requested.  These procedures are equipment-relevant, and do not necessarily reflect the types of analyses performed at the Enology Service Lab.

For data reporting a secure website has been established.  Results of analyses are only avaliable to the individual winemaker and to select staff members of the Enology Service Lab.  The data is posted as results are obtained.  Results of previous analysis are continuously maintained, allowing winemakers to see trends in their juice, must, or wine samples.  The website is continuously monitored for security and system back-ups are performed daily to provide the utmost in stability, security, and availability.

Sample Submission Requirements

The quality and applicabilty of the results obtained by the Service Lab are direclty affected by the sample submitted. For this reason, all samples must be 375 mL (Split) or 750 mL (Full Bottle).

ANALYSIS WILL NOT BE PERFORMED WITHOUT THE FOLLOWING:

  1. Completed Sample Label in PENCIL attached to the sample bottle
  2. Check to cover the cost of all the requested analyses, made out to: Treasurer, Virginia Tech along with the Deposit Approval Form. The completed forms, labeled samples, and checks should be packaged together and sent to:

    Wine/Enology-Grape Chemistry Group
    Enology Service Lab
    Attn: Ken Hurley
    Rm.113, FST Bldg., Virginia Tech (0418)
    360 Duck Pond Drive
    Blacksburg, VA 24061-0418

Samples should be shipped overnight by UPS or FedEx, and each winery is responsible for establishing service with the shipping company. Included with the samples should be an Analysis Request Form. To avoid protracted shipping or storage by the shipping company, samples should not be mailed on Friday or Saturday. The Enology Service Lab will accept personal drop-off of wine samples, but for safety, security, and privacy reasons, only Service Laboratory staff are allowed in the laboratory area.

After analyses, the remainder of the sample will be retained for 2 weeks if further testing is required. Beyond this period of time, additional requests for analysis will require submission of a new bottle.

The lab must be notified if sucrose has been added to the sample. RS tests for reducing sugars (Glucose and Fructose). If sucrose has been added to the sample, a different test must be performed.

Please note: The ACE test only measures acetic acid. For finished wines the VA is generally a better choice to monitor spoilage. The ACE test does not meet the legal definition of volatile acidity.

Tanks
When sampling it is crucial to ensure the sample is representative.  Samples collected from the top, bottom, or racking valves may vary and may contain bitartrate crystals, which may resolubilize during transit.  It is preferable to minimize this effect, and to obtain a representative sample. This can be accomplished by mixing.

Top sampling - Top sampling involves lowering a bottle with a restricted opening (via an attached nylon cord) down through the wine such that it fills on the way to the bottom.  An examination of the wine surface should be conducted to determine the presence of film yeast and acetic acid bacteria. It is important to know how long it takes the bottle to fill so that the rate at which it is lowered can be adjusted to suit the tank size.

Racking Valve - When taking samples from valves it is important to clean the valve effectively by rinsing with water prior to and immediately after sampling, allow approximately 1 liter of wine to run through the valve before taking the sample.  This prevents dilution from the rinsing water and contamination by any bitartrate crystals which have formed on the ferule wall.

Barrels
Barrel sampling procedures include: checking the bung area for signs of growth, looking for stains or spills on the floor, looking for film on the surface of the wine with a flashlight and checking for VA smell.  If the barrel was properly sealed a vacuum should have been created. If, when the bung is removed, vacuum pressure was not noticed, check to see if the barrel is leaking or if there is some reason for improper bung closure.  A clean and sterile wine thief is best used for removing barrel samples.  Wine thieves should be immersed in pH-adjusted sulfur dioxide solution (200 mg/L SO2, pH 3.0 - 3.3) to avoid microbiological contamination barrel to barrel. It should be noted that wines in individual barrels may have significant differences in their chemistry and biological content.  An individual barrel therefore may not be representative of the entire wine lot.

Contact Information
Ken Hurley
Lab Director
113 FST Building
360 Duck Pond Drive
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061
(540) 231-8690
winelab@vt.edu

Ann Sandbrook
Lab Specialist
113 FST Building
360 Duck Pond Drive
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061
(540) 231-7447
winelab@vt.edu