Ripeness and Readiness of the grapes

With harvest well under way at Creation, let’s look at a couple of terms you may hear being used – two of which refer to the crucial ripeness and readiness of the grapes.


When you taste a grape, you probably think of the level of sweetness as the primary indication of ripeness, and indeed sugar content is central to the decision of when to harvest, as the sugar content of the fruit determines the potential alcohol after fermentation (yeast converts sugar to alcohol and C02). In South Africa, the most commonly used unit of measurement for sugar content in grape juice is Balling.

Balling is a density scale, named for its developer Karl Balling and used for measuring sugar content in water-based solutions. Grape juice consists primarily of sugar and water and thus the Balling scale is a quick and fairly simple way to do ‘sugar analysis’.

However, it was later discovered that the Balling scale contained a slight inaccuracy which in due time was corrected by Dr. Brix. Today the Brix scale is in actual use, but the terms Balling and Brix are used interchangeably. As mentioned above the Balling scale is extremely simple: each degree on the scale is equivalent to 1 percent of sugar in the juice. For example, grape juice which measures 10 degrees on the Balling or Brix scale contains about 10% sugar.

Phenolic/Physiological Ripeness

Sugar ripeness is indeed critical to the harvesting decision, but in recent times more emphasis has been placed on what is called the ‘physiological’ ripeness of the grape. This refers to the tannins and other phenolic compounds which are present in the skins, pips and stems of the grape. Interestingly, taste is currently the only way to measure phenolic ripeness, something which requires experience and skill to do accurately and something which cellarmaster Jean-Claude Martin can be seen doing every day as he walks the vineyards in the run-up to harvest.

The exact processes that ripen these phenolic compounds are not yet fully understood by viticulturists; however it is suspected that the polymerisation of phenols leads to the perception of ‘softer’ tannins. Click here to read more.

 2015 03 04 barrel bottle Ripeness and Readiness of the grapes


2015 03 04 barrel magnum Ripeness and Readiness of the grapes

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