One of the advantages of being part of a large wine company, is you have access to state-of-the-art testing equipment.
Now, thanks to Constellation Laboratories, smaller wineries can enjoy that same advantage, without the high expenditures that would be required for a full lab facility.
Constellation Laboratories started as the main lab in the Okanagan for Constellation Brands; one of the largest wine and spirits companies in the world.
QA manager Dena Gregoire says the transition to offering a service for smaller wineries came about almost by accident.
“Over the years we were often approached by other wineries in the valley when they had an issue with their wines that required more specialized instrumentation to test,” Gregoire says. “We began to realize there is an obvious need in the valley for a testing facility.”
The issue for most wineries is, quite simply, the cost of the specialized instrumentation and glassware.
“To get really good lab equipment is very, very expensive,” says Gregoire. “You can easily spend upwards of $10,000 on one small basic piece of equipment, and we have some items that well surpass that cost. But it’s not just the high costs of the equipment and glassware, there is also the building itself and the six trained lab technicians who work there.
“Yes, you can definitely buy less expensive technical instrumentation, but your sample processing will be lower and your results will be less precise,” Gregoire explains. “We do have all the equipment here, and the trained staff to use it, so it’s a win-win for everyone.”
For example, Constellation Labs has some pieces of equipment that are rarely seen in most laboratories. Next month the company will be installing a fully automated photometric analyzer. With its robotic arm and highly sensitive instrumentation, the device can perform multiple tests on a sample, such as measuring acetic acid, sugar, and specific organic acids in wine samples.
As well, the lab has a flow injection analyzer that can test for free and total sulphites in wines with incredible precision, running up to 60 tests an hour.
“We started offering this service just over a year ago, and we have already been very busy, so obviously there was a bit of pent-up demand,” says Gregoire.
Samples can be dropped off at the lab in Oliver or at Cronie’s Winery Supply in Penticton.
To learn more or to contact the lab facility, go to www.constellationlaboratories.com