Harvest is approaching quickly! Our President Brian has commenced testing the sugar levels (Brix) of the grapes this week and will continue to test the grapes weekly during February. The results will be available through our blog.
Rent-A-Row and winemaking are dependant on our grapes ripening. As with all agriculture based industries, we are beholden to the weather. Rain is great – at certain times. Rain in February and March can delay the grapes ripening, and warm rain creates risk of mildew and disease. Sunlight and temperature warmth are required for grapes to ripen. Extreme heat or extensive cloud cover causes the vines to go into ‘survival mode’, where energy is used for the vine to survive instead of ripening and development of the grapes. With the right balance of conditions, the grapes will ideally ripen steadily towards our predicted harvest date – but this is often not the case.
A quick lesson on Veraison, Brix and Baumé
As the grapes go through veraison (ripening), sugars in the grapes will continue to rise as acid levels fall. The balance between sugar (as well as the potential alcohol level) and acids is considered one of the most critical aspects of producing quality wine so both the must weight and total acidity, as well as the pH of the grapes, are evaluated to determine ripeness. Towards the end of the 20th century, winemakers and viticulturists began focusing on the concept of achieving physiological ripeness in the grapes-described as a more complete ripeness of tannins and other phenolic compounds in the grapes that contribute to the colour, flavour and aroma of wine.
Brix (°Bx) is a way to measure the potential alcohol content of a wine before it’s made by determining the sugar level in grapes. Each gram of sugar that’s fermented will turn into about a 1/2 gram of alcohol. Brix levels are collected in vineyards right before the harvest to determine whether the grapes are ready to get picked. In the vineyards, 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.
A word you will hear quite often around winemakers is Baumé (Bé°). Baumé is a measurement of the dissolved solids in grape juice that indicates the grapes’ sugar level and ripeness and therefore the potential alcohol in the wine. Baumé is commonly used by winemakers in France and Australia. We calculate the Baumé from the Brix figures, and in turn calculate the alcohol content from the Baumé. We utilise online calculators and spreadsheet formulas for these calculations. (Honestly, I have no idea what the formulas are, I just know they work!)
We’ll be spending the upcoming weeks preparing the winery and Cellar Door for the start of harvest and Rent-A-Row – pulling the winemaking equipment out of storage, cleaning and tidying everything, finalising our database, and mentally preparing for the 160 plus groups of Citizens that will be visiting us to pick and crush their Shiraz grapes.
We receive a lot of questions about where to stay or go out to eat while our Citizens are in the Heathcote Wine Region. Matt wrote a couple of articles on this, so check them out.
Whenever I am asked a question a few times, I add it and it’s answer to our website’s FAQs. Please check them out first if you have any questions, then shoot me an email if your question isn’t there.
I know you’re anxious to find out when Picking & Crushing will be starting – so are we! There will only be a couple of weeks’ notice before booking in, but it’s looking to be March. Please be patient, once we know when harvest is due to start you will receive the email to book in.