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Analytical Services Lab

2021 Harvest Testing Request is Active! 

Contact winelab@vt.edu with the number of juice bottle and post-fermentation tube samples you need

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

Shipping Samples:

Ship samples UPS or FedEx and include the following:

  1. Fill out a sample label form for each sample submitted
  2. Fill out a deposit approval form
  3. Include a check to cover the cost of the requested analyses, made out to “Treasurer, Virginia Tech”
  4. Include contact information (such as a business card) with an email address for results to be sent to


*Do NOT ship samples through the United States Postal Service (USPS) because there will be a 1-2 day delay as packages are sent to a central campus sorting facility before being delivered to the lab. The USPS does not allow the shipment of alcohol.

Mail Samples to:

Enology Services Lab
Room 113, FST Building (0418)
360 Duck Pond Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Wine Samples:

Sending in wine samples can be dependent on the type of testing you are requesting. See specific details on the “Volume Calculator Form”.

Contact the lab if sucrose has been added to the sample.

Sterility and Culturing Tests:
For bottled products - submit an unopened full bottle
For tank samples - use sterilized equipment to obtain a sample and fill a sterile wine bottle (375 or 750mL). Culturing tests can take 2 weeks for results.

Juice Samples:

The lab offers juice testing during the harvest season, and will send out sample bottles for juice and fermentation samples from August - October.  Contact the lab at winelab@vt.edu prior to harvest each year to order juice bottle kits.

Other Alcoholic Beverages (Beer, Spirits, Cider):

A minimum of 350mL of each sample is required.  Samples can be submitted in sealed cans, bottles, and screw cap containers intended for beverages (Do not use mason jars/jelly jars).

Kombucha and Non-Alcoholic Beverages:

Do not use glass containers for kombucha samples.  Water bottles can be filled halfway, frozen solid, and ship the sample on ice packs for overnight shipping to avoid fermentation during shipping.  

DO NOT ship via USPS - use UPS or FedEx overnight shipping options.  Do not ship samples over the weekend.

Hops:

Send in samples in the same state you would have them sold.

  1. Obtain a representative sample of your product
  2. Place in a zip-top bag
  3. Place that bag and your sample form into a second zip-top bag
  4. Send to the lab for next-day delivery by UPS or FedEx
  5. Results can take 2-3 days depending on the analysis requested.
  6. Full oils profiles depends on how many samples are submitted at once, contact the lab at hops@vt.edu for specific times for that week


Food:

Send food items for next day delivery using UPS or FedEx. The test for Alcohol in Foods is the ALCNS-F test and is $50 per sample. Testing for food samples can take 2-3 weeks.

Volumes needed based on product:

Food Product for Alcohol Testing

MINIMUM Volume Needed

Jellies/Jams/Sauces

4 oz jelly jar minimum

Chocolates

10 pieces of 1 oz (bite sized) chocolates

Cupcakes

2 regular sized cupcakes  or 8 Mini cupcakes

Large Cakes

1 serving size (1 slice) of cake as it would be sold (includes frosting/filling as the customer would receive it)

Frosting 

1 Cup

Ice Cream

1 pint  (Place each pint container in its own sealed plastic bag)

Contact winelab@vt.edu if you do not see your product listed to determine volume size requirements

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

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

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