OSU center testing quality of state’s grapes

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STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) - Gene Clifton with Canadian River Winery in Slaughterville knew his wine tasted good.

He knew the time and effort he spent picking out just the right grapes from Oklahoma vineyards made his product the best it could be.

To make sure his product was chemically correct, he would send it to Texas Tech University, where the wine could be tested to determine its chemical makeup. Once Clifton sent it to the lab, he was able to make sure everything in his wine was as good as he thought it was.

“The sugar content, the alcohol content - everything was right on the money,” he said.

Now, Clifton and other wineries don’t have to send their product out of state for testing. Food scientists at the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center at Oklahoma State University are performing those same tests and have even used the results to help name a state wine to be used by the governor.

The testing is made available through a grant from the Oklahoma Viticulture and Enology Fund, created by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

The grant was used to purchase lab equipment, but wineries must still pay $75 per wine for testing.

The test results are plugged into the data being gathered as part of the Oklahoma Wine Quality Assessment and Improvement project. The first round of testing started at the end of 2012, with 31 wines from across the state. To date, more than 50 wines have been tested.

“We’re trying to focus on Oklahoma wines made from Oklahoma grapes,” said William McGlynn, FAPC horticultural products processing specialist.

He said that there is nothing wrong with the Oklahoma wineries using grapes from out of state. However, testing wines made from Oklahoma grapes paints a better picture of what is happening in the state’s wine industry, he said.

“We’re trying to figure out if there is a common issue in (Oklahoma) grapes that we could improve,” McGlynn told The Journal Record (http://bit.ly/1glrwR4 ).

The lab tests are used to study a variety of different aspects of the wine and also tell a story about the grapes used in the product. The tests examine the levels of oxygen in the product, color of phenols, juicing sugars, acidity, pH level, alcohol content, and tartaric acid content.

The tests are performed by Angie Lathrop and Veneta Banskalieva in the FAPC analytical services lab.

“We love doing new things,” Lathrop said, “so doing something new is always fun.”

The only interaction Lathrop and Banskalieva have with the wine was chemically testing it, as they are not allowed to drink it. But Lathrop said if one of the wines smells good, she will purchase it later.

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