Thursday, October 13, 2011

Brix Too Low? Time for a Costco Run

   We have become spoiled with high brix (percent sugar for non-winery people) in Washington State. It is so bad that a restaurant in Walla named itself 26 Brix (or was it 16% Alcohol?). Our philosophy is to make food friendly wines under 14%, so we often have to bring out the Jesus machine. What’s that you ask? Well, Jesus’ first miracle was to turn water into fine wine. It still works today, but now we call it a hose. This year is perfect for natural wines. No messing around.
Winemakers new to the industry (most of them) are freaking out over low sugars this year. I got an email from WSU last week suggesting methods of amelioration (adding sugar for non-winery people.) Blasphemy, you say. The Europeans have been doing it for years. They make great wines with low-sugar grapes. If you really want hot wine, freeze it in a tank and do a freeze distillation. If it’s alcohol you are looking for, that will do the trick.
What winemakers don’t know is that flavor and ripeness are key over raw sugar (read alcohol) power. Do a little math. 21 brix translates into 12.5% alcohol. Wines used to top out at 13% alcohol. It is only with the Parkerization of wine that people expect wine to taste alcoholic like a mixed drink made from raisins and prunes, with no acid (read flabby). I get people all the time in the tasting room, “I am looking for a big red.” Oh, you mean a highly alcoholic beverage that is overly extracted and tastes like prunes and raisins, without varietal character like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Try someplace else.
I am looking to see some exceptional wines this year – more European in nature. Fruit flavors are super this year and the pyrazines are starting to disappear here in the Rattlesnake Hills.
As for the dumb sh!t who wants a big red, gas up your SUV and pray for global warming.


  1. This is great! While I was living in Italy I was used to drinking wines that were around 12-13% and fell in love with it. Now that I am opening a wine shop in Bothell I have a hard time buying wines for my customers where the alc is above 14.9 but in reality more like 16%. The wheel was not broken so why did we try to fix it? If the percentage of wine was good back in the day and around most of the world, why change it now? You nailed it...Parker. Preach on!

  2. Jesus units = gallons of water
    Post Harvest Irrigation = a hose in the tank

  3. Great article. After brewing beer for years, I'm switching to wine but my Brix for my Cab Sauv seemed 'low' at 20.8 compared to what I've read and the wine makers I've talked to. After reading this article, I have decided that the right thing to do is to run with it. Many thanks!