Designing and establishing a winery laboratory

This article discusses some issues that should be considered when establishing or upgrading a winery laboratory. In general terms, the winery laboratory should be designed to provide an effective, flexible and safe working area for the conduct of laboratory analyses. There are two main stages involved (Anon. 2000) and each of these is discussed below.

Pre-design and planning stage

The goal of this phase is to identify and establish the scope and budget of the laboratory. It is best to involve all staff who will work in the laboratory at this early stage, however, there remains a need to establish clearly the responsibilities for decision-making in order to progress to construction.

Some questions that should be considered very early in this process include:

  • Is sub-contracting or outsourcing of laboratory analyses a financially viable option?
  • How much do you want to spend on establishing and maintaining a laboratory?
  • What level of laboratory skills and staffing do you have or wish to maintain?
  • Are contract analysis services to be provided to third parties?

Firstly, the scope of operation should be decided so as to identify the needs of the laboratory, and this, in turn, should be based on consideration of the needs of the winery in general. Once this is decided, the type of equipment that is required can be specified and the space and service requirements can be estimated.

It is also advisable to examine the requirements for accuracy of the individual determinations being considered. For example, if the winery does not require alcohol analysis for labelling purposes, but rather for quality control only, then a relatively low accuracy of determination might be sufficient – thus helping to decide the preferred method of analysis. In general, the way in which an analytical result is to be used will determine the degree of accuracy and precision required from the method used. Further discussion on the concepts of accuracy, precision and uncertainty of measurement is given elsewhere in this section (see Laboratory data quality).

Design and construction stage

For a project of a relatively large scale, it is advisable to engage a design professional. It is preferable that such a professional should have considerable practical experience in the design and construction of a laboratory of similar scale and in a relevant scientific area. Where a designer is engaged, it is nevertheless vital to involve future users of the laboratory to maintain close communication and active participation.

In preparing a brief for the designer, there are several aspects that are worth considering, including:

  1. The laboratory needs to be large enough for present needs and future expansion (including the potential for contract analysis services), with sufficient bench space to accommodate the efficient use of all equipment.
  2. Sufficient space should be allocated for storage of records.
  3. A defined area, preferably near the entrance of the laboratory, should be allocated for receiving wine samples for analysis.
  4. A separate tasting room is desirable, to avoid any odours that might result from testing procedures in the laboratory.
  5. The laboratory should be in a central location with direct access to the winery and tasting room.
  6. A storage area, or preferably a separate storeroom, is required for storing samples, such as reference samples of wines bottled or dispatched in bulk.

In considering laboratory layout and such features as bench design, placement of power outlets, sinks and taps, it is often useful to inspect other laboratories as well as consulting the relevant building regulations.

It is also necessary at the design stage to consider all the relevant occupational health and safety regulations. Establishing and maintaining a strong working relationship with the relevant regulatory authorities can often achieve this. Some of the standards relating to these issues are listed in a separate document (Australian standards of relevance to winery laboratories) and reference to these will usually provide guidance for compliance with most regulations.

The construction phase requires close attention to detail. Therefore, selection of contractors with previous experience in the construction of similar laboratory facilities is preferable. In cases where design consultants are engaged, they will probably have their own preferred contractors, or at least be able to offer some advice on procedures for selection of contractors.

Finally, commissioning of the facilities on completion should be conducted as thoroughly as possible, and involve all aspects of the functionality for which it has been designed. It is also recommended that all contracts with designers or contractors have requirements for determination of suitability assessment at commissioning. This will help to ensure that the design parameters are met, and that any problems can be identified and rectified.

References and further reading

  • Anon. (2000) Laboratory Design, Construction, and Renovation: Participants, Process, and Product. Committee on Design, Construction, and Renovation of Laboratory Facilities, Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology, National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington DC, ISBN 0-309-06633-6, 170 p.
  • Bruer, B.A.; Bruer, D.R.G.; Brien, C.J. (1982) Shelf life of some common winery laboratory reagents. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 33: 159-163.
  • Bruer, D.R.G.; Sitters, J.H.; Iland, P.G. (1984) Some recent developments in winery laboratory management. Aust. Grapegrower Winemaker 12th Annual Technical Issue (244): 71-73.
  • Butzke, C.E.; Ebeler, S.E. (1999) Survey of analytical methods and winery laboratory proficiency. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 50(4): 461-465.
  • ETS Laboratories (1993) Laboratory analysis: what are the actual costs? Pract. Winery/Vineyard 14(2): 12-14.
  • Howe, P. (1999) Spectrophotometric analyses in the winery laboratory. Vineyard & Winery Manag. 25(6): 92-97.
  • Iland, P.; Ewart, A.; Sitters, J.; Markides, A.; Bruer, N. (2000) Techniques for chemical analysis and quality monitoring during winemaking. Campbelltown, SA, Patrick Iland Wine Promotions.
  • Rankine, B.C. (1998) Making good wine: a manual of winemaking practice for Australia and New Zealand. South Melbourne, Sun Books (Macmillan Australia).
  • Rankine, B.C.; Weeks, C. (1969) Establishing a winery laboratory. Aust. Wine, Brew. Spirit Rev. 87(5): 50, 52, 54.
  • Yap, S.J. (1977) Microbiological tools for the winery laboratory. Aust. Grapegrower Winemaker (163): 8-10; Adelaide, SA: Ryan Publications.