AP Chem Tours Unsworth

Tuesday, December 05, 2017 - By: Olamide O, Privett ‘18

As part of the course, Mr. Amiel’s AP Chemistry class took a trip to Unsworth Vineyards in Cobble Hill. On this field trip, the class was to learn about the creation of wine and understand the critical chemical processes behind each bottle. Upon arrival, we received a brief tour of the facilities. While we walked, our guide who is the vineyard’s chemist, Dan Wright, explained the history of viticulture on Vancouver Island and some of the intrigue and challenges for this industry with the location. The class viewed the machinery involved in the sorting, pressing, and bottling processes, as well as participating in some ferment tasting and spitting. 

As part of the trip, the class was to perform a series of labs to simulate calculations Mr. Wright and other viticulture chemists perform on a daily basis. The first test was for Soluble Solids; this measured for sugar level in the fruit juice which can affect the potential alcohol levels. Using refractometry and hydrometry, we were able to determine the glucose levels of various juices. 

During a more extensive lab, we were tasked with calculating the tartaric acidity and pH of different solutions; those properties are important to the taste and feel of a wine. By completing a titration using sodium hydroxide and some simple calculations, we were able to determine the acidity of a wine sample. 

After a lunch break, we headed back into the lab for a couple of quick demonstrations before departing. Mr. Wright used an ebulliometer to show us how chemists use the boiling point of water at different pressures to find the expected alcohol percentage of a beverage. To close the trip, he explained the importance of sulphites to wine while showing us how an autotitrator works. CFO Burton, do you think it’s in the budget to purchase about a dozen autotitrators? They really speed up chemistry labs. 

To close the session, Mr. Wright shared his journey to becoming a winemaker and opened the floor to questions about the numerous career options in this industry. Unfortunately, it was time to bid goodbye to Mr. Wright and Unsworth Vineyards and head back to Brentwood. The class would like to thank Mr. Wright for taking the time out of his busy schedule to organize an amazing day for us, the folks at Unsworth Vineyards for hosting us, and Mr. Amiel for putting this all together. 

Olamide O, Privett ‘18

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