Vintner's Corner

Vol.18, No. 2 March - April, 2003
Bruce W. Zoecklein
Department of Food Science and Technology
VPI & SU - 0418
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Web site:

Table of Contents

Upcoming Programs
Viticulture and Enology Internships 2
Extension Lab Services 2
VQA Systems 2

I. Upcoming Programs

Winery Planning and Design Workshop May 31, 2003. A one day Winery Planning and Design Workshop is scheduled for May 31, 2003 at the Holiday Inn Leesburg at historic Carradoc Hall, 1500 East Market Street, Leesburg, Virginia. This program is for those seriously interested in entering the commercial wine industry.

This event is hosted by Loudoun Cooperative Extension, and coordinated by Dr. Bruce Zoecklein, Head, Enology-Grape Chemistry Group, Virginia Tech. The workshop will include presentations, discussions, and printed materials on the following:

The workshop fee is $250, payable to "Bruce Zoecklein's Foundation". Checks can be mailed to Ms. Terry Rakestraw, Food Science and Technology, Virginia Tech - 0418, Blacksburg, VA 24061. Preregistration is required and enrollment capacity is limited.

Additional program information is available from Ms. Terry Rakestraw at or by phone at 540-231-6805, and posted on the group=s web site at or - from the home page click on "Events."

Wine Closure Symposium and annual meeting of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, Eastern Section July 8-11, 2003, Corning, New York. The Closure Symposium (July 9-10) will feature a number of international speakers on practical and relevant subjects including: Progress toward elimination of TCA, an overview of cork alternatives, Cork QC, screw caps and other wine bottle closures, etc., including sensory analysis. Additional information is available through my office, posted on my website, and posted on the website of the ASEV-ES at

Wine Microbiology Workshop July 21, 2003. Location TBA. This day-long program will feature my colleague, Lisa Van de Water, The Wine Lab and Pacific Rim Oenology Service, and will cover practical issues with regard to wine microbiology. I will also cover the subject, Managing Sulfur-Containing Compounds. This will include factors influencing organic and inorganic sulfur compound production, and steps to lower the impact on wine quality. More information to follow. Mark your calendars!

Norton Roundtable. The third annual Norton Roundtable meeting will be conducted at Chrysalis Vineyards, beginning at 1:00 p.m. on July 28, 2003. This meeting is for current Norton grape growers and winemakers. RSVP required. If you are interested in attending send me an e-mail message at

II. Viticulture and Enology Internships

Each year at about this time, we inform Virginia Tech students of our internship program. I ask those with an interest in viticulture, enology, or both, to provide me with a written letter of intent, a resume and collegiate transcripts. Following a review, we interview qualified students, and I make my recommendations to the winery. Students are selected on a competitive basis for internships in viticulture, which run from mid-May to mid-August, or in enology, which run from mid-August to mid-November.

Wineries interested in participating in this program, for either enology or viticulture students, should contact me via e-mail ASAP. The most important requirement for a participating winery is to outline the student=s role and involvement in vineyard/winery activities, and the winery=s expectations. This program is not designed as a source of cheap labor, but to help students in their technical and practical understanding of the Virginia grape and wine industry. Additional winery compensation specifics are between the student and the host winery.

For additional information, please contact my office. If you are interested in either an enology or viticulture intern, please e-mail me and provide, in outline form, the specific tasks the intern would perform, any specific qualifications you would require, etc. Again, the money aspects of this experience would be between you and the student.

III. Extension Lab Service

The Enology-Grape Chemistry Group offers chemical, physical, microbiological and sensory analyses for the Virginia commercial wine industry.

As a result of budget restraints (our College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has lost 20% of its funding!), the service has been scaled back, but remains in place. It is designed to supplement winery in-house quality control analysis.

The following is a list of activities:

To help assure a rapid turnover, send an email message to with the word "Analysis" in the subject line, and list the analysis desired and the date the sample will be sent.


The Advisory Committee of our Enology-Grape Chemistry Group is reviewing the establishment of a Virginia VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) system. The establishment of a VQA system was included as a recommendation by the Governor's Wine Study Group.

The British Columbia and Ontario VQA systems have been in place for some time. In BC, the alliance maintains about twenty-five certified judges. Each winery may submit people for certification, which requires passing sensory tests for defect recognition. An 80% or better score is required for initial judge certification. Certification testing continues on a regular basis. All judges are required to attend monthly workshops on sensory evaluation to maintain their certification. Judges retain their position on the VQA panel for only a certain period.

For VQA wine evaluations, wines are reviewed by twelve judges, not by flights, but simply one wine at a time. It takes three or more judges to reject a wine. If that happens, an additional bottle is opened and the wine reevaluated. This program is mainly sensorial, although some chemical analyses are also conducted.

Wineries can submit pre-bottling tank samples for preliminary approval. This allows the producer to affix the VQA stamp during the bottling operation. Immediately post-bottling, bottled samples are submitted to the VQA and compared to the previously submitted tank sample. In the case of BC, only 100% BC wines are eligible for VQA certification.

Of what value is this program? It has been used to create a positive image for BC wines, particularly in the Okanagan Valley. Because it has been properly promoted, it is recognized. Consumers understand that wines with the VQA stamp have undergone a careful sensory review. To me, however, the greatest surprise was to learn that the VQA system has increased, not decreased, the sense of community among the producers. I am told that it has brought the industry closer together in the shared interest of improving both the image and quality of BC wines. This is a very desirable consequence in view of the ever more competitive global market place!!!! More to follow.

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