Brix October 2, 2016 10:52

Degrees Brix is a unit of measure indicating amount of sugar in grape juice or other solution.

In winemaking it is a tool in determining grape ripeness and when to harvest.

Brix is also the name of some restaurants and wine shops because it is cool sounding common winemaking word.

Named after creator Adolf Brix, it is a good indicator of sugar level and therefore helps determine the ripeness of a grape. One degree Brix is approximately one percent sugar.

Brix is handy for grape growers and winemakers because it is a fast and easy test using a portable hand held refractometer.


 After tasting grapes in the vineyard I use a refractometer to monitor ripeness.


Typically grapes are harvested in the range of 22 to 27 degrees Brix. 22 is marginally ripe and usually ferments a lower alchohol wine (around 13%). 27 is very ripe and will ferment a higher alchohol wine (possibly 16-17%).  Individual winemakers prefer different degrees of ripeness based on the style of wine they want.

To decide when to harvest, in addition to Brix to determine ripeness I also pay attention to appearance of the berries, flavors in the juice, acids, color of the seeds and flavors in the skins. For me balance is the key to perfect ripeness.

This is what a perfectly ripe cluster of Viognier looks like. Translucent (you can see the seed inside) and glossy rich color. This grape tested 24 degrees Brix.