Friday, October 15, 2010

Baume, Balling, or °Brix?

In Vinoland, we use degrees °Brix (°B) - the percentage of total solids in solution - to measure the sugar content of our grape juice. As I have mentioned before, this is only a guideline as to when grapes are ready to be harvested and made into wine.
Today was the first time that I have bothered to test our Cabernet Sauvignon to see just exactly where it is on it's little annual journey towards maturity. I took several readings and they all came in exactly the same, (no need to take an average of the readings - which was a first for me), 22.6 °B. Yes, Thomas, I know that that is approximately 12.9% potential alcohol, but look at the squished grapes in the above photograph; seeds are still partially green, pulp is still firmly attached to the seeds, and there is almost no colour extraction. The flavours are quite promising, but merely measuring the sugar content is no indication of phenologic maturity.


Thomas said...

At first, the picture seemed to me like a plate of mussels!

I agree: If the flavors (er, flavours) are still only promising, then you must wait.

Do you think that the general "green-ness" of young Bordeaux has to do with picking too early?

Also, at this point, the shades of seeds has become one of those issues where people are starting to take sides. This is such a contentious business at times...

Thud said...

you don't say!

Vinomaker said...

Determining physiological maturity of the fruit is not an exact science and some of the markers, such as sugar content, total acitity, seed development, color release from the skins and berry weight, are helpful in tracking how close the grapes are to previously harvested crops. In the end, it is the taste that determines the picking date. Unfortunately many dates are driven by labor and fermenting space logistics so close is as good as it gets some years.

Thomas - I think the Bordeaux "green" reference is probably more about the age of the wine and not the methoxypyrazine issue due to poor canapy management or early harvest.

Vinogirl said...

Thomas: Hmmm, apparently I'm not learning anything in my photography class!
I wouldn't say that the wine business is exactly contentious, but as we both know there is no single recipe for making wine. So much is open to the winemakers interpretation and so there are many differing stylistic expressions of wine even from one variety of grape - in this instance Cabernet.

Thud: Good discourse is always invigorating.

Vinomaker: I agree with both definitions of green-ness. Without a doubt the Bordelais rarely ever reach the level of ripeness we get in Napa and therefore Californians often percieve French wines as herbaceous, underripe and unpleasant. The earthy character in some Cabernet sauvignons can provide complexity and flavours that complement (and may aid in bottle maturation)the blackcurrant and black cherry flavours that have made Cabernet king! The Napa penchant for making big, ripe, jammy, early-drinking Cabernets may be the very reason that these same wines do not age like a Bordeaux. I like both approaches for different reasons.

Jamie said...

still, I reckon too few pick early enough

Seeds don't really need to be brown?