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How Do You Know When to Harvest?


September 9th 2018

You know when a grape is ready to harvest based on its Brix. Brix measures must levels (sugar) in wine grapes that ultimately determines how much alcohol a wine will have. Each gram of sugar that’s fermented will turn into about a 1/2 gram of alcohol. Another way to tell if a grape is ripe and ready for harvest is if the inner seeds are brown and crunchy.
Measuring Brix
In the Vineyard: Winemakers use a device called a refractometer where they can crush single grapes from different sections of their vineyard to see what sections are ripening first.
During Production: Brix levels are collected again after the grapes have been pressed to analyze the final sugar content and the potential alcohol level of the wine. Winemakers use a hydrometer, which is tool that floats at a certain density similar to a cartisian diver or Galileo’s thermometer.
CMW Brix Scale
Realistically we harvest our varietals between 21-24 brix. Ideally, each varietal would get to 24 brix but the chances of that happening in our region are not likely.
A lower brix typically means the grape will have a higher acidity level. White grapes are harvested first and this is why they tend to be crisper and more acidic compared to reds. Higher brix also correlates to grapes becoming riper, which directly impacts flavor.
Examples of Good Brix Based on Past Harvests:
Cayuga- 22 brix
Pinot Grigio- 23 brix
Vidal Blanc- 25 brix
Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin- 24 brix
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