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What is a Gas Chromatograph?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Producing quality wines requires making sure the proper amount of alcohol is contained within the product. Today, many modern wineries use a gas chromatograph to ensure the correct volume of alcohol is obtained in each production run. Considered to be the most accurate means to ascertain the alcohol content of wines, the gas chromatograph has replaced the use of an ebulliometer in some of the best wineries around the world.

Essentially, the gas chromatograph works by analyzing the mixture of organic compounds found in the wine. The gas chromatograph has a series of filters made from porous materials. Samples taken from the wine batch are gathered into a syringe and then injected into an ejector port on the device. The temperature of the injector port must be in excess of the boiling point for the sample in order accurate readings to occur. This allows the components of the wine to convert into gas, which then is then pushed into the filters by way of helium or a similar carrier gas.

As the wine gases pass through the filters, the compounds are identified by electronic equipment and the alcohol content is determined. While some models of the gas chromatograph feature a printer that creates a graph of the progress of the wine sample, new models utilize a terminal display, making it possible to view the results without having to decipher a graph.

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Using gas chromatographs for alcohol measurement has a couple of advantages. One, the chromatograph is considered to be more sensitive than even the best ebulliometers of years past. That sensitivity results in more detailed reports on the nature of the wine, proving the wine maker with additional information that could make a big difference in the quality of the final product. Second, chromatographs are relatively inexpensive to purchase and maintain, compared to equipment from years past. This means that even a small local winery can afford to buy a gas chromatograph and use it for testing samples of the wine in progress.

There are a number of manufacturers around the world that provide state of the art gas chromatograph equipment to the wine industry. Research and development departments at these manufacturers routinely find ways to fine tune the efficiency of their products, which makes it possible for the process of accurately gauging the alcohol content of wine more accurate every year. Current models of the gas chromatograph are smaller than the devices sold even five years ago, making them easier to install and utilize in a number of different settings around a winery.

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