How to Check Methanol in Wine

Most alcoholic drinks contain a small amount of methanol.
Most alcoholic drinks contain a small amount of methanol. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Methanol is one of the many alcohols produced during the fermentation process and in larger doses, it can sicken, or in rare cases, kill the person consuming it. All wine has a small amount of methanol in it, and commercial wineries are required by federal law to test their products before they're sent to stores. Many smaller personal wineries or wine hobbyists aren't as diligent in their testing, so if you're not sure about the amount of methanol in the wine you're about to drink, you can test the level yourself.

Things You'll Need

  • Red litmus paper
  • Potassium dichromate
  • Two small samples of the wine
  • Two glass jars or glasses

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Testing for Consumers

Place one sample of the wine in question (at least 1 oz.) in a glass container. Place a piece of red litmus paper in the sample and wait 2 to 3 minutes.

If the litmus paper turns blue, there is a potentially dangerous level of methanol in the wine and it should be discarded.

If you are forced to discard the wine, you should also contact the person who sold you the wine and/or the person who made it. It's likely that a number of bottles of wine came from the same batch and they are also contaminated with excess methanol.

Testing for Winemakers

Place one sample of the wine in question (at least 1 oz.) in a glass container. Add 5 grams of potassium dichromate and mix thoroughly. Let this sample sit undisturbed for at least 15 minutes.

Check the sample of wine after 15 minutes. Lift the container containing the alcohol sample and the potassium dichromate to your nose and sniff carefully. If you detect an acidic or slightly burned smell, discard the wine immediately.

If you do discover your wine is contaminated with excess methanol, you should carefully review your entire winemaking process. It's likely that a flaw in your technique is causing this problem.

References

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