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Bowers Harbor Vineyards

Alaina Dodds
 
October 4, 2017 | Alaina Dodds

Through the Vines and Behind the Scenes: Part Two

Last Wednesday, Wine Specialist Tom took our tasting room staff on a brix tour. We were able to walk around the vineyards and test the brix levels in the fruit, and also learn about pH levels and acid content. It was AMAZING learning about how much goes into the testing and preparation of the vines and grapes (AKA berries). The timing of harvest is key and thus testing the berries on key metrics is vital: sugar, acid, pH and phenolics, the latter having few metrics. On top of everything that needs to be measured, all grape varietals need to be picked at different times and each have their own ripening schedule.

Bowers Harbor Vineyards Staff Brix Tour

Three Things to Measure to Test Ripeness of Grapes

1) Brix

Measuring the levels of brix in a berry is how you figure out the sugar content. The sugar level itself is measured with a refractometer. The juice is placed on the refractometer lens and light travels through the juice to refract on a degree scale. The thicker the juice the more it bends the light and the higher the brix that registers on the scale.

2) Acid content

Organic acids are responsible for the various levels of bitter tastes in the wine and have influence on the wine’s stability, color and pH. It is perhaps the most critical of the measured components. Don't forget...wine is an acidic beverage after all. 

3) Level of pH

pH is the measure of a balance of active acidity in the juice and wine, so acid and pH are directly related. Generally white grapes are harvested at pH level of 3.1 – 3.3 and red grapes at 3.3 – 3.5. A pH meter is used to measure pH. Before this is done the grower and the winemaker can taste the berry and get a feel for the sugar and pH ripeness. 

Bowers Harbor Vineyards Staff Testing Grapes Before Harvest

In addition to using the technical tools to measure the ripeness, you should also be tasting the fruit along the way.

Here are some things to look/taste for:

  • Soft berries - Berries dehydrate slightly, and the texture of the pulp softens when grapes ripen.
  • Brown seeds - The color of grape seeds changes from green to brown as the berries ripen. In most varieties, the pointed ends of the seeds (the “beaks”) are the last part to turn brown.
  • A clean pedicel - fully ripe grapes can be pulled off the berry easily and with little or no pulp attached

All in all we had a lot of fun as a group testing the brix levels and learning about each varietal and what to do look for. Interested to learn more about this topic yourself? We offer private and group vineyard tours! Click here to learn more about what we offer and to sign up for one, they are a blast!

Hope you enjoyed this edition of Through the Vines and Behind the Scenes! If you missed Part One, you can catch up here and stay tuned for Part Three!

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