The beginning of autumn is the time to decide when to harvest the grapes. But how do you identify the right time to pick? I’ll try to explain to you how to know when the grapes are good enough or ripe. And I’ll show you some steps to be sure because it’s crucial. I’m sure that it is not necessary to say twice that better grapes assure better wine.

When to Harvest the Grapes – Significant Day of the Yearwhen to harvest the grapes

The harvesting day is the most important day of the year. It determines the character of wine you’ll make, and It also sets in motion the yearly harvest. As a grape grower and a winemaker, you indeed could not manage all this stuff without a note. This note will come right in the following days, months, and years which follow. Let’s start with sight, touch, smell, and taste. You want your grapes to be not green. Richness in color is a good sign of ripeness. A ripe grape will crush quickly but not be wrinkled and contracted. Ripe grape is plump and sweet, and thickly juicy.

The balance between tart and sweet is essential for deciding when to harvest the grapes.

Each variety forms unique flavors. We call this varietal flavor. But this can achieve only a fully ripe grape. Just this kind of grape can develop its varietal character most completely. Is it vegetal, similar to a green pepper or herbaceous? What about aftertaste? Is it bitter or pleasant? Vinegar or chemical smells or tastes are imperfections. So be careful if you have that perception. Remember, you can conclude what kind of wine will be after the grape tasting.

The Laboratory Work Is Essential for a Decision on When to Harvest the Grapes

But the lab work is essential. It’s nothing wrong with using your feelings, but it’s similarly essential to measure some parameters. So what can you measure? You can measure pH, acidity level, and sugar content; It’s water and sugar which will ferment to make wine. You have to know that these two components are the main ingredients of the grape.

What Does the Brix Mean?

Brix is a commonly used word in the winemaking industry. It’s used to measure the sugar level of grapes. Based on the level of Brix, you can expect the alcohol level of your wine. This is one of the essential indicators when harvesting grapes. Brix is calibrated in degrees. Like temperature, for example. The refractometer is the measurer for Brix level measurement.

For What Reason the Refractometer is Useful?

A refractometer is helpful for the decision of BRIX level and the decision on when to harvest the grapes. You can simply buy a refractometer online or at a winemaking supply store. You just need to drop a little juice on the test plate, close the cover securely and look through the viewfinder. You’ll notice a line where your juice displays on an internal scale.

Glass Hydrometer

A somewhat less comfortable but inexpensive method is to buy a glass hydrometer with a built-in scale which can also help to decide when to harvest the grapes. This type of measurement is a more straightforward process, but you need more juice for this purpose. You just fill your cylinder with juice and then sink your hydrometer into the liquid. And read the Brix result on the built-in scale. The less sugar is in your wine, the more deeply your hydrometer will sink. Mature grapes contain more sugar than immature. The result of more sugar is a higher level of Brix.

Different Wine Types Demand Various Brix Levels

Different wine types demand various Brix levels. Overall, 22 Brix is good for white wine. So we have to take care of our grapes, testing them from time to time, and when we see that the Brix level is O.K., then it’s time for harvesting. I hope that now it’s clear all about sugar and what to do regarding this issue.

What about pH?

Let’s briefly talk about the pH and the pH meter. It could be that you remember pH from high school science class. It’s an issue of available hydrogen ions. The pH will rise as our grapes ripen, and the sugar level will be higher and higher. A portable pH meter isn’t so expensive, and you can buy one. Calibration of your meter is crucial. So be sure that you find and purchase the reference solution for this kind of measurement. Grape juice is very abundant in natural acids, and you have to know that natural acids lend necessary qualities to the wine. When we measure Brix, we should keep attention to acid levels too. In a way, they’re opposites; as the Brix goes up, the acid levels go down. I recommend that you buy yourself a simple acid test kit because also pH is essential to deciding when to harvest the grapes.

Pick Some Samples and Decide When to Harvest the Grapes.

It demands a little care and a little practice, and you’ll require making good records, but don’t bother; you can do it, and you will do it. But now is time to pick. So let’s start. A good sample is crucial. It’s much better to pick different grapes from several clusters. Pick grape from low and high. From both sides of the vine. In shaded areas and sunny areas. Pick from various parts of the particular cluster. Fifty specimens are somehow the proper sample. But of course, it’ll be good enough, an even smaller sample if you have only a few vines. Write about its smell, about his taste, maybe how they felt. In the end, squeeze it all together into a cup, and that’s it—time for analysis.

Time for Analysis and Harvesting.

Use the juice to perform your analyses, and then write down your results. Enjoy picking your grapes, then measure an acidity, sugar, and pH sample and record it. Then, sort through your grapes. Pick out any moldy, green,  or dried berries, and you’re ready to begin making wine.

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