Brix is a measure of sugar levels in grapes in the wine industry. It roughly translates as follows: a grape sample showing a reading of 20 brix means that that sample has approximately 200 grams of sugar per liter of solution . . .or almost 2 lbs. of sugar per gallon! Yikes! It also means that should you ferment this wine to dryness without any ‘manipulation’, the subsequent wine would have an alcohol level of between 11 and 12 percent.
Many in the wine industry use this as the main determining factor for when to pick grapes. It used to be ‘back in the day’ that many grapes were picked at 22-23 brix so that the finished wine would be in the 12.5 -13.5 alcohol range . . .and there are some that still feel this is the ‘ideal’ area to pick in.
This measurement, as I’ve spoken about before, is simply one of many factors to help determine when to pick. More importantly, this measurement is heavily influenced by weather patterns, watering patterns in the vineyard, crop loads, and a few other variables.
There are some varieties that simply do not ‘come into their own’ until their sugar levels rise to much higher levels. Grenache, my favorite variety, is a prime example. Here are a few reasons for this:
* Grenache clusters are relatively large compared with other varieties, and in order to get complete ripening of the entire cluster, it is necessary to hang them out longer
* Grenache skins are very thick and tannin-filled; if picked too early, the resultant juice and wine will end up being less than stellar – thinner in body, full of tannin, and lacking the beautiful fruit character that draws me to these grapes
* The grapes simply do not produce ‘a harmonic balance’ in the subsequent juice until they are much riper than other varieties – this comes from tasting and tasting and tasting – you just KNOW when it’s time to pick them . . .and it tends to be at higher brix.
What does this all mean? I’m not really sure I know . . . I just felt like sharing this information this morning!