Out with our restaurant patio furniture! In with the grape crusher! The grapes are wrapped up like presents in bird-defending netting, pruners razor sharp, staff giddy. We hold our breath…
What are we waiting for? Sugar. This measurement of sugar content in grapes is referred to as ‘brix.’. The winemaker waits for the goldilocks moment when the brix are ‘just right’. Picking too early can result in green and vegetal notes in the grapes; if the grapes are left for too long you run the risk of rot, split fruit from rain, burnt flavours from too much sun, and a battle of the birds. It’s cut throat timing.
Brix levels vary depending on the varietal of grape and regional climate. For example, a chunky Californian Cab Sauv could have brix as high as 27, whereas the same varietal grown in Bordeaux may be picked at 23. Cool (in both senses) Nova Scotia brix levels have a legal minimum level of 15 and usually rise to a maximum of 22.
There are three ways to test ripeness in your grapes.
1. Taste them.
This can be tricky, but here’s how we do it at Luckett’s:
2. Look at them.
Impress your friends with your Sherlock power of deduction skills by following these quick and easy clues.
Do the grape skins look ripe in colour?
No → leave them a bit longer then.
Yes → brill.
Look at the seeds:
Green seeds → need more time.
Brown seeds → brill.
3. Bring out the refractometer.
In real language this is called The Sugar-Reading Thing. See below for a step-by-step guide.
Theoretically, to get an alcohol measurement you multiply the brix number by 0.55. The reading above was taken a few weeks ago from our L’acadie grapes, as of today these grapes are at 19 – we’ll ideally pick at 20. Are you sitting comfortably boys and girls? The harvest story is about to begin…