What do you call your special guy or gal? Sweetie pie? Honey bunch? Sugarlips? Love is all about sweetness and sugar, and patience. And so is the grape harvest.
At the end of July, my grapes entered veraison. This pretty word is the stage that marks the beginning of the ripening process. Over the next 30-45 days, the small, hard, green berries began to enlarge, soften, and change color. They also experienced an increase in Brix levels.
Brix is a measure of the sugar density of the grapes. (For all the chemistry nerds out there, one degree Brix equals 1% sugar in solution. According to Enowiki, Brix is actually a measure of all soluble solids in the grape juice, the majority of which are sugars.) For table wines (not sparkling) grapes are harvested between 23.5 and 26° Brix. For dessert wines, one leaves the grapes on the vine longer so that they dehydrate, thereby concentrating the sugar even more. Botrytis Cinerea, not an STD but actually the “noble rot” affecting certain grapes, also sucks water from the fruit to dehydrate it, thus helping to create some of the world’s finest dessert wines.
The time it takes for the berries to reach the ideal Brix level depends on the weather. Some cool, wet days up in Mendocino have slowed down the process for my own grapes (some people believe that longer “hang time” means better wine, so not to fret), but now the sun’s return has brought the Petite Sirah up to 21.6° Brix and the Syrah to 23° as of this morning.
The Syrah should be ready for harvest in just a couple more weeks and then I shall greet my sweeties with open arms. Well, ok, with a forklift.