Do you know how wineries decide when to harvest their grapes? While you might assume that there is a specific time in the season all grapes are harvested, the reality is actually a bit more complicated and scientific than that! 

Winemakers like Wide River know when it’s the right time for their grapes to be harvested by measuring the levels of sugar in the grapes, otherwise known as the degrees Brix. The official definition of Brixis, “the sugar content of an aqueous solution,” and one degree Brix is equivalent to “one gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution.” It is abbreviated as °Bx. 

Wine grapes are not the only thing that degrees Brix are used to measure. Other beverages or condiments this system is used for include condiments like maple syrup or honey, other drinks like juice or soda, and even plain old fruit and sugar. 

Sugar occurs naturally in fruit like grapes, and the levels of this sugar changes throughout the growing period. It also changes depending on different factors like the age of the vines the grapes are growing on, and how much sun or shade the grapes receive while they are growing. Younger vines tend to ripen quicker, but it takes a few years for them to have a decently sized yield. 

Right now, Wide River is measuring the Brix level of the grapes ready to be harvested. Currently, these varieties are Frontenac Blanc and and Brianna. 

For these varieties, the correct sugar levels are around 16 °Bx, and this means they are ready to be harvested. Some grapes are already there, which means we will have to speedily begin harvesting! For other vines, the sugar levels are only at about 12 °Bx, meaning they are not ready yet. This is because these areas of the vineyard have more foliage, and thus the grapes receive more shade. 

So, how are degrees Brix measured? Our staff picks grapes from different areas of the vineyard and mashes them into a pulp. Then, they take a tool known as a refractometer and use it to test the grape pulp from different vines. The refractometer measures the sugar levels, or Brix, telling them everything they need to know about if it’s time to harvest or not. 

Ms. D’Meanor White, Redemption Rose, Blushing Testimony, and Search, Seizure, and Sangria all include either Brianna or Frontenac Blanc grapes—take a look at our Tasting Sheet or shop these wines here.