Monday October 10, 2016
The 2016 harvest is in full swing!
As the fruit ripens we use a handful of indicators paired with a little intuition, to make decisions about what and when to harvest. The development of sugar and the conversion of acid, along with the individual aromatic and flavor components that develop all play a role in our decisions and all have an impact on the final result.
The first step we take is to get berry (grape) samples that represent the variety (type) or block (location) are put in to a baggie and smashed so that we can extract juice from the fruit. This will allow us to test the fruit for the different elements we are looking for.
We then use a refractometer to measure the brix, or total sugar content of the juice. A refractometer is a tool that works similarly to a prism separating light into its color spectrum. It measures sugar content as light passes through the juice giving our winemaker and vineyard manager an idea of brix. Sugar is a critical component to winemaking, not because it translates into sweetness, but because it is the fuel for fermentation. Yeast will consume the sugar and create alcohol (but we can delve further into that on a future post!).
The conversation and reduction of acid in the fruit is another important element we use to help make harvest decisions. We measure TA or titratable acidity to determine how much acid remains in the crop. Depending on the variety and intended style of wine we may look for different acid levels to harvest at. Fruit for sparkling wine will come in at slightly higher acidity, still wines will be harvested at lower levels of acidity. pH is also an indicator of acidity that we will measure. It tells us more about the strength of acidity and is important to the longevity and stability of the wine as it ages.
The information we collect from these tests will then be utilized to make specific decisions about when and where to harvest. Winemaker Kasey Wierzba, and Vineyard Manager Andy Fles to utilize this data and begin to map out a plan for the vineyard and the fruit that will come in. This data will also impact stylistic decisions for the wine, the result of the vintage (growing year) on each variety.
Winemaker - Shady Lane Cellars