Lab analysis can be key to wine quality
Three facilities in the Okanagan help winemakersmake sure their processes are going well. By Susan McIver
aking great wines requires great vines and winemakers knowledgeable in the chemical and microbiological processes involved in turning grape
juice into wine.
Analytical tests exist that tell winemakers whether or not the various processes are progressing in a satisfactory manner.
Three analytical wine laboratories located in the Okanagan are helping to ensure high quality wine one chemical test at a time.
Mount Kobau Wine Services is located in Oliver, while the Penticton Wine and Okanagan Wine laboratories are based in Penticton.
Wine testing services are offered in the Lower Mainland by the Wine Research Centre at UBC, Maxxam Analytics in Burnaby and SGS Canada Inc. in Vancouver. The Okanagan labs, however, have the advantage of being situated in the heart of B.C.’s major wine producing area. Mount Kobau Wine was the first in the region, having been started in 1993 by Lynn and John Bremmer. Lynn had been the winemaker for Brights Wines in Ontario for the preceding two decades.
She has a diploma in food technology from BCIT, plus two years of post-secondary courses in science and winemaking and extensive laboratory analysis in Ontario. “We wanted to work for ourselves after years working in the corporate world,” she said.
John operates a viticulture consulting business and runs the couple’s five-acre vineyard, while Lynn is in charge of the lab.
She initiated and continues to chair the B.C. Wine Grape Council’s Lab Proficiency Committee.
“Proficiency testing is regularly performed in other winemaking countries in order for industry to verify and monitor their laboratory test results,” she explained. Greg Devins opened Penticton Wine Lab in 2006 following more than 10 years of experience in the bottled water industry and laboratory analysis of water and water treatment systems.
Previously, he had obtained a diploma in water
Lynn Bremmer and her husband John own Mount Kobau Wine Services. She is in charge of the analytical laboratory while he runs a viticulture consulting service.
quality technology and environmental monitoring from Okanagan College.
“As I watched the wine industry grow, I realized that wine people were having way more fun than I was,” he said. To join in the fun, Devins took the winery assistant program at Okanagan College and worked for two years at local wineries in both cellars and on-site laboratories. “During this time, I realized there was an increasing need for another small independent wine laboratory in the South Okanagan,” he said.
In 2013, Nik Durisek bought the Analytical Juice and Wine Laboratory in Kelowna from Zofia Kowalski, who had started it in 1997.
Durisek moved the business to Penticton and renamed it the Okanagan Wine Lab.
“The chemistry I studied for my bachelor of science degree has proven to be very useful,” Durisek said.
All three Okanagan laboratories do standard analyses such as determination of sugar and acid levels and YAN (yeast assimilable nitrogen).
“Knowing how much nitrogen to feed the yeast is critical. Mistakes can cause off-flavours,” said Durisek, who offers monthly maintenance service packages with tests for pH and molecular sulfur dioxide and volatile acidity. “As well as the standard tests, I do protein and tartrate
British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2016 7
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