Almost all winemakers use a refractometer to help them determine when to harvest. A refractometer is easy to use out in the vineyard and allows the winemaker to assess the ripeness of fruit.
When assessing grape ripeness Jon Pollard, vineyard manager at Gusbourne Estate, recommends you pick and test a minimum of 6 bunches per varietal-clone combination, and increase that number based on the variability of ripeness within a varietal-clone block.
It is also very helpful to graph how grape sugar is changing as the weeks go on, as most of the time ripening isn’t linear (Sectormentor does this on-the-go with our Ripeness Report). There are often clear trends for different varietal/clone combos over multiple years (despite varying weather conditions) – e.g. some will ripen faster but then sugar levels jump around so there is limited benefit from leaving them on the vines for longer.
Grape Sugar:Titratable Acid (TA)
Acids give crispness, brightness and thirst-quenching qualities to wines and are essential components to balance a good wine. There is a direct correlation between the amount of sugar present and the ability to make wine.
Ripening often isn’t linear. Over the years different varietal-clones have similar ripening curves which is easily visualised using historical ripeness graphs. This is an extremely helpful tool when making decisions about when to harvest, as it can help you make an informed decision about how much the sugars may increase or the acidity will drop in the following weeks. Of course there are many other factors that come into play, so the more information you can have about ripening patterns in each block the better prepared you will be to pick the perfect time to harvest! You can also measure and visualise pH and the ripening process using the Ripeness Indicator Tool on your Sectormentor web app.