Mike Pendleton was in the room pouring this weekend—he had just returned from a family trip to France and Italy, “I mainly stuck with all the house wines.  I mean they were excellent and for the cost—cheaper than a Coke.  Very balanced, very food friendly.”

Now it’s back to business at his Alexander Valley vineyards, “I’m just looking at veraison”.  Veraison is the stage of grape development when the fruit changes color and growers can get a good sense of how their year is likely to shape up.  “It gives you a clear idea of your fruit set, of what your harvest is going to be, the size of the berries.  The berries are fully developed so all they’re doing is turning color and they’re starting to build up the sugar.”

When grapes are still on the vine sugar levels are calculated in “degrees brix” named after Adolf Ferdinand Wenceslaus Brix a German engineer who devised this scale for measuring the specific gravity of a liquid in the early 1800’s.  One degree is equal to 1 gram of sucrose per 100 grams of solution, so effectively it works out as a measure of the sugar percentage in the fruit.  White grapes tend to be harvested at lower brix than red.

“Normally, if everything is consistent you could raise one degree brix per week,“ says Mike “but, you know, a couple of years ago it was in the 100’s for a week and it raised 5 brix in a week.  It depends on where you are, on what the fruit is, there are so many variations.  If it’s in the 80’s one bric a week is the norm.  The longer it can hang and the slower it develops, the better quality it’s going to be.”