Posted: 29 Sep 2010 01:11 AM PDT
Do you remember that in my last blog post I was talking about picking grapes in the rain? Well, a very astute guy in Australia sent me a great question on that subject. (Thanks Dale)
It was something that I had never thought about and I certainly didn't know the answer, but the riddle was quickly solved by talking to one of my champagne-making neighbours.
And what was the question...?
" If the grapes are picked in the rain doesn't that extra water on the grapes dilute the juice?"
The answer is Yes it does, but if it's only light rain the amount of water that finds its way into the press and into the juice is so small as to be unimportant.
On the other hand, if there's a real downpour, the pickers will stop harvesting and not just because they don't like being out in the rain - there would be noticeable impact on the concentration of the pressed juice.
Once I got chatting to my neighbour about this though, the conversation revealed something more...
Diluting the juice is not always something to be avoided.
Occasionally the sugar level in the grapes at harvest time is higher than the champagne makers would ideally like. Somewhere between 9% -10% potential alcohol is what they are looking for, but once in a while the natural sugar level can get up to about 11% or more.
If you were to start the champagne making process with that much sugar in the juice, by the time the various fermentations had been carried out, the resulting wine would have more alcohol in it than the 12.5% permitted for champagne.
So what do they do if there's too high a sugar level in the grapes? Well, they dilute the pressed juice with water.
So as you can see, harvesting in the rain is not always bad.
If you have question or comment please just post it here on the blog or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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