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October 14, 2009


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I'm curious about the brix readings: assuming the use of a refractometer or other reliable method, how does removing only 6% of the bulk of the grapes swing an entire averge up as many as 2 brix, especially when many of the grapes removed were botrycized (sp?)? Was there an abundance of green grapes in the original sample?

25 brix is quite a high number for a cooler year in the Finger Lakes for any varietal. I'm interested how this all sorts out for such a result!

Jason -

Thanks for your questions. I invite you to come out when we are sorting to help out with this unique opportunity.

In 2006, we had the chance to do a side-by-side comparison with a wine made from field-sorted, hand picked grapes and then ours (which we hand sorted at the crush pad). We were ~ 1 brix higher and 1g/L of TA lower than the first batch. We were sold on this method ever since.

We are removing some of the botrytis fruit, but there is a fair bit of sour rot (leading to VA) and unripe clusters that make there way into the bin. These unripe clusters lead to higher acids and lower brix. I'm not separating the crap fruit to break out the percentages of sour rot/botrytis/green clusters but, to date, we've hauled out a little more 1000lbs of grapes we can't use.

We were also shocked seeing the brix level this high. We actually had to do a re-sample on these two bins to clarify that it wasn't just a sweet pocket. We look forward to tasting the finished results too!

Tom Higgins
Heart & Hands Wine Company

Thank you for the kind invitation--I would greatly enjoy helping with a future sorting!

While many Finger Lakes wineries are not as meticulous with hand sorting as your operation, there are a few that are and I've never been led to believe that the practice has such a dramatic effect on brix (slightly better brix, of course, clean fruit with good flavor, definitely!). What other variables are at play here with your fruit to get such results? Is there something unique about your production methods, sourcing, etc.?

Jason makes a very good point. Sorting out botrytis affected ( noble or not) grapes does not increase the sugar level. In fact, it will decrease the sugar level as winemakers working with Riesling understand. Sorting will only increase sugar level, if you eliminate red or green berries, but then we are not talking about 24-25 brix grapes.
I recently harvested beautiful Pinot Noir grapes, fully ripe but with no rot or shrivelling at a little over 22 Brix. These grapes were grown at about 1.9 T/acre on a lyre trellis system. The lyre trellis system captures probably 50 % more sun light than traditional VSP trellis systems.

Jason -

I think it would be too simple to point to one or two elements in the process which help the process of ripening - however, Mother Nature might be the leading variable.

Also, I try not to use brix as the only component of determining whether fruit is is ripe.

Tom Higgins
Heart & Hands Wine Company

Yes, ripeness is an interesting concept not measured in sugar levels alone.

I'm glad to hear that Mother Nature was kind to you this year (I don't imagine that's true for everyone!) and I'd be interested to hear more about your growing sites at some point.

I think that 25+ brix will give you a lot to work with for some amazing pinot potential...cannot wait for the 2009 release!

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