Well, this is a timely question: Susan wants to know what “Brix” means.
The small instrument you saw at the beginning is called a refractometer. It’s a prism-like instrument that measures the soluble solids in the grape juice, 90% of which is sugar.
Have you ever tasted just-picked wine grapes? Soooo sweet!
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This is a seasonal word, for sure. And, it should be on the rise, this week, with all this lovely, warm weather!
Brix is a measurement of sugar. 24 degrees brix translates to 24% sugar. After such a cool summer, here, the grapes are at least two weeks behind in maturity so the brix is very much on the winemakers’ minds.
One of my clients reported 19 degrees brix a few days ago in her Petit Verdot. You can figure that the sugar will increase by about a little less than 1% a week in normal weather – whatever that means ;-). So, if she’s looking for 24 degrees brix at harvest she’s still about five weeks out. Let’s hope we don’t run into rain!
So, winemakers check the brix with increasing frequency as the grapes ripen.
Why is sugar so important? It determines the alcohol. You can figure that a little over half the sugar will convert to alcohol during the fermentation. So, starting at 24 brix you can expect to end up with 13 or 13.5% alcohol in the finished dry wine. Continue reading