How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

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Alan Eden
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How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#1 Post by Alan Eden » May 31st, 2019, 7:23 am

I win the lottery and have a bunch of money to make my own wine. Im standing in Napa and there are two massive bins full of grapes in front of me, one is filled with wonderful Screaming Eagle quality fruit, one s filled with $20 a bottle cab grapes.

How would I with zero experience be able to tell which bin was which ? what are the characteristics of great grapes if tasted before they start the whole process ?
There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those that understand binary and those that don't

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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#2 Post by Mike Cohen » May 31st, 2019, 7:25 am

by height

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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#3 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » May 31st, 2019, 7:48 am

Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 7:23 am
How would I with zero experience be able to tell which bin was which ?
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#4 Post by Anton D » May 31st, 2019, 8:10 am

Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 7:23 am
I win the lottery and have a bunch of money to make my own wine. Im standing in Napa and there are two massive bins full of grapes in front of me, one is filled with wonderful Screaming Eagle quality fruit, one s filled with $20 a bottle cab grapes.

How would I with zero experience be able to tell which bin was which ? what are the characteristics of great grapes if tasted before they start the whole process ?
The Screaming Eagle grapes would be near a helicopter.

Maybe you'd find a cow horn in the good bin, too.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#5 Post by BenjaminL » May 31st, 2019, 8:13 am

Hire me! Often you would have asked the vineyard selling the grapes for a wine sample from the previous vintage before you commit to buying. If you forgot that part, the Australians have done the best job trying to make berry quality assessment Objective (see reference Winegrape Berry Sensory Assessment in Australia by Dr. Erika Winter, Jacques Rousseau, and John Whiting). Most Cab winemakers I know say harvest is determined based on how fine the tannins are in the skins (although science has never been able to correlate the tannin in grapes to the tannin in wine, c'est la vie).
Assuming both grape bins look the same, you'd taste for acidity/sugar balance, and chew up the skins to look for a pleasing tactile sensation on your tongue.
And if you find $20 bottle Napa Cab grapes, let me know, I'd like to see that.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#6 Post by Bdklein » May 31st, 2019, 8:20 am

I would step into the bins barefoot. Which everyone feels better when I squish the grapes between my hairy toes is the one i buy.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#7 Post by Alan Eden » May 31st, 2019, 9:37 am

Are the smartass answers because nobody knows or you just a bunch of smartasses ?
There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those that understand binary and those that don't

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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#8 Post by Doug Schulman » May 31st, 2019, 9:47 am

probably both
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#9 Post by Andrew Morris » May 31st, 2019, 10:03 am

Doug Schulman wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 9:47 am
probably both
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#10 Post by Bdklein » May 31st, 2019, 10:10 am

Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 9:37 am
Are the smartass answers because nobody knows or you just a bunch of smartasses ?
I’m standing in front of 2 answers . One says “nobody knows” and one says “just a bunch of smartasses”. Which do I pick ?
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#11 Post by Markus S » May 31st, 2019, 10:26 am

Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 9:37 am
Are the smartass answers because nobody knows or you just a bunch of smartasses ?
You ever taste a grape before? I know sour grapes when I see 'em.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#12 Post by Eric Lundblad » May 31st, 2019, 1:37 pm

Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 7:23 am
I win the lottery and have a bunch of money to make my own wine. Im standing in Napa and there are two massive bins full of grapes in front of me, one is filled with wonderful Screaming Eagle quality fruit, one s filled with $20 a bottle cab grapes.

How would I with zero experience be able to tell which bin was which ? what are the characteristics of great grapes if tasted before they start the whole process ?
The 'super expensive Napa Cab' fruit would have a highly uniform level of ripeness, from grape to grape. And, generally, the ripeness will be pushed to the edge, but none past that into overripeness.

The inexpensive bin would be much more variable in grape ripeness, with some noticeable amount being overripe and some underripe (by current standards of over/under ripe).

Also, I'd expect to not see any leaves in the super expensive bin, and a fair amt (+) in the cheap bin. Another tip that it's the expensive fruit is being in a 1/4 ton bin (as opposed to a std 1/2 ton bin)...or in a FLYB (funny/fing little yellow bin...if you're the buyer it's funny, if you're the grower it's not...small bins, small enough that one person can carry it when full, and none of the grapes get crushed by the weight above it).

...but none past that into overripeness: It's possible the strategy here has changed, by allowing some degree of overripeness through and letting an optical sorter make the determination. From a Pinot Noir perspective, a cluster with a few overripe berries makes the entire cluster suspect, so optical sorters have never struck me as a universal win. High end Cab Sauv isn't my bailiwick, so don't know what the range of opinions is here.

The harder question is how to tell the difference between a bin of grapes destined for, say, a $75/bottle vs another bin for a $300/b. And you're better off making the determination based on the vineyards and farming practices, but you knew that already.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#13 Post by Richard Albert » May 31st, 2019, 1:57 pm

The $20 bin has the mega purple container on top.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#14 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » May 31st, 2019, 2:03 pm

Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 9:37 am
Are the smartass answers because nobody knows or you just a bunch of smartasses ?
Smartass answers for dumbass questions.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#15 Post by Alan Eden » May 31st, 2019, 2:08 pm

D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 2:03 pm
Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 9:37 am
Are the smartass answers because nobody knows or you just a bunch of smartasses ?
Smartass answers for dumbass questions.
Its OK David, the other kids will like you if your a dick
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#16 Post by Alan Eden » May 31st, 2019, 2:09 pm

Eric Lundblad wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 1:37 pm
Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 7:23 am
I win the lottery and have a bunch of money to make my own wine. Im standing in Napa and there are two massive bins full of grapes in front of me, one is filled with wonderful Screaming Eagle quality fruit, one s filled with $20 a bottle cab grapes.

How would I with zero experience be able to tell which bin was which ? what are the characteristics of great grapes if tasted before they start the whole process ?
The 'super expensive Napa Cab' fruit would have a highly uniform level of ripeness, from grape to grape. And, generally, the ripeness will be pushed to the edge, but none past that into overripeness.

The inexpensive bin would be much more variable in grape ripeness, with some noticeable amount being overripe and some underripe (by current standards of over/under ripe).

Also, I'd expect to not see any leaves in the super expensive bin, and a fair amt (+) in the cheap bin. Another tip that it's the expensive fruit is being in a 1/4 ton bin (as opposed to a std 1/2 ton bin)...or in a FLYB (funny/fing little yellow bin...if you're the buyer it's funny, if you're the grower it's not...small bins, small enough that one person can carry it when full, and none of the grapes get crushed by the weight above it).

...but none past that into overripeness: It's possible the strategy here has changed, by allowing some degree of overripeness through and letting an optical sorter make the determination. From a Pinot Noir perspective, a cluster with a few overripe berries makes the entire cluster suspect, so optical sorters have never struck me as a universal win. High end Cab Sauv isn't my bailiwick, so don't know what the range of opinions is here.

The harder question is how to tell the difference between a bin of grapes destined for, say, a $75/bottle vs another bin for a $300/b. And you're better off making the determination based on the vineyards and farming practices, but you knew that already.
Eric

So uniformity and ripeness are the key factors, dont sweetness, acidity, flavour etc play any role ?
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#17 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » May 31st, 2019, 2:19 pm

Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 2:08 pm
D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 2:03 pm
Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 9:37 am
Are the smartass answers because nobody knows or you just a bunch of smartasses ?
Smartass answers for dumbass questions.
Its OK David, the other kids will like you if your a dick
The beauty of it is that I don’t care.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#18 Post by Alan Eden » May 31st, 2019, 2:28 pm

D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 2:19 pm
Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 2:08 pm
D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 2:03 pm


Smartass answers for dumbass questions.
Its OK David, the other kids will like you if your a dick
The beauty of it is that I don’t care.
Makes sense why your avatar is a pussy
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#19 Post by Eric Lundblad » May 31st, 2019, 3:29 pm

Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 2:09 pm
Eric

So uniformity and ripeness are the key factors, dont sweetness, acidity, flavour etc play any role ?
The things I mentioned (uniformity/ripeness) are more observations to identify grapes destined for high end vs grocery store wine, rather than a reasonable list of key qualities that necessarily cause the wine to have one style or characteristic or another.

Sweetness, acidity, flavour, etc definitely play a role. Trying to determine this purely based blind with grapes presented to you seems like an impossible task, except in the extremes (high end vs grocery store cab for example). For example, the flavors of grapes has a complex & highly non-obvious relationship to the flavors you'll get from wine (for the varieties I work with), and that assumes you can get past the massive sweetness!

In addition, trying to understand the relationship between grape chemistry, or wine chemistry, and their relationship to wine quality is a difficult task, at least given our current understanding of wine chemistry. For example, we're still trying to get a firm handle on the perception of acidity (is it based on pH, TA, or both...or neither one in the case of wines with any amount of citric, however unusual that would be). For my own wine, I avoid numbers based winemaking (except for a few standard/obvious ones) and instead focus on the vineyard, farming and my palate. Not very helpful for the current discussion tho unfortunately.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#20 Post by Bdklein » May 31st, 2019, 3:53 pm

Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 2:08 pm
D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 2:03 pm
Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 9:37 am
Are the smartass answers because nobody knows or you just a bunch of smartasses ?
Smartass answers for dumbass questions.
Its OK David, the other kids will like you if your a dick
It’s you’re, not your , btw . Am I being a smartass to a dumbass?
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#21 Post by Gabe Berk » May 31st, 2019, 9:27 pm

The most seasoned berry sampler would know. Majority of people on this forum probably wouldn’t be able to help much.

On the other hand, the members would for sure be able to recognize the difference between a wine of Screaming Eagle quality vs. $20 California Cabernet. What I love to test is can people sniff out a $50 bottle vs. $150🤔

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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#22 Post by Jim Brennan » May 31st, 2019, 10:11 pm

Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 7:23 am
I win the lottery and have a bunch of money to make my own wine. Im standing in Napa and there are two massive bins full of grapes in front of me, one is filled with wonderful Screaming Eagle quality fruit, one s filled with $20 a bottle cab grapes.

How would I with zero experience be able to tell which bin was which ? what are the characteristics of great grapes if tasted before they start the whole process ?
Now that Robert Parker has retired, this is essentially impossible. ;)

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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#23 Post by Casey Hartlip » June 1st, 2019, 6:14 am

Eric Lundblad wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 1:37 pm
Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 7:23 am
I win the lottery and have a bunch of money to make my own wine. Im standing in Napa and there are two massive bins full of grapes in front of me, one is filled with wonderful Screaming Eagle quality fruit, one s filled with $20 a bottle cab grapes.

How would I with zero experience be able to tell which bin was which ? what are the characteristics of great grapes if tasted before they start the whole process ?
The 'super expensive Napa Cab' fruit would have a highly uniform level of ripeness, from grape to grape. And, generally, the ripeness will be pushed to the edge, but none past that into overripeness.

The inexpensive bin would be much more variable in grape ripeness, with some noticeable amount being overripe and some underripe (by current standards of over/under ripe).

Also, I'd expect to not see any leaves in the super expensive bin, and a fair amt (+) in the cheap bin. Another tip that it's the expensive fruit is being in a 1/4 ton bin (as opposed to a std 1/2 ton bin)...or in a FLYB (funny/fing little yellow bin...if you're the buyer it's funny, if you're the grower it's not...small bins, small enough that one person can carry it when full, and none of the grapes get crushed by the weight above it).

...but none past that into overripeness: It's possible the strategy here has changed, by allowing some degree of overripeness through and letting an optical sorter make the determination. From a Pinot Noir perspective, a cluster with a few overripe berries makes the entire cluster suspect, so optical sorters have never struck me as a universal win. High end Cab Sauv isn't my bailiwick, so don't know what the range of opinions is here.

The harder question is how to tell the difference between a bin of grapes destined for, say, a $75/bottle vs another bin for a $300/b. And you're better off making the determination based on the vineyards and farming practices, but you knew that already.
Eric, I commend you for taking a stab at this.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#24 Post by Mattstolz » June 1st, 2019, 6:28 am

probably the most important thing here would be to taste the grapes.

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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#25 Post by David Glasser » June 1st, 2019, 7:11 am

Alan did ask in his OP what differences in the taste of the grapes would be notable.

From a couple of experiences tasting wine grapes at harvest time the thing that really struck me was how sweet they were. The sweetness was overwhelmingly dominant to my untrained palate. I’m sure I couldn’t tell the difference between high-end grapes and those destined for plonk. I figured that’s just because I have no experience or knowledge.

What I got from Eric's posts is that even from an experienced winemaker's perspective it would be easier to tell from visible differences like uniformity of ripeness and freedom from leaves that are clues to how much care was taken in the vineyard than by taste or chemical analysis.

Smartass answer: peek at the paperwork showing where they’re from and how much they cost.

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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#26 Post by BenjaminL » June 1st, 2019, 7:44 am

David- Wine grapes are ~25 % sugar (ripe cab can be 30%), tablegrapes are 17 - 19% sugar. You can get used to the sweetness but it is important to spit when you're tasting during harvest...
I do understand the theory behind looking for visual cues but for me taste is paramount.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#27 Post by Merrill Lindquist » June 1st, 2019, 8:44 am

Taste and visuals. I custom crush at a facility which will have multiple bins of fruit being processed from different vineyards. I taste them all.

The high end wine grapes just taste better - I can't think of another way to put it. They taste balanced, just like your high end wine. The bin will contain very little MOG (material other than grapes). It will contain a uniformity that is not visible in the low end bin.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#28 Post by Eric Lundblad » June 1st, 2019, 11:52 am

Casey Hartlip wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 6:14 am
Eric, I commend you for taking a stab at this.
Thanks Casey!

Btw, when judging ripeness for picking, I'll crush some grapes in a bag and smell the juice...that lets me know what's going on and translates better to the final wine (esp in lower brix situations) without being distracted/influenced by the sugar flavor.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#29 Post by Wes Barton » June 1st, 2019, 1:18 pm

David Glasser wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 7:11 am
What I got from Eric's posts is that even from an experienced winemaker's perspective it would be easier to tell from visible differences like uniformity of ripeness and freedom from leaves that are clues to how much care was taken in the vineyard than by taste or chemical analysis.
Uniform ripeness helps achieve a certain elegant style. That might be a sort of truism for most modern Napa Cabs, but it is definitely not true for many great wines. A range of ripeness provides complexity. You obviously want to stay within certain parameters to avoid green and raisinated tastes. Do you just want dense black fruit, or a range of red to purple to black? Maximized aromatics may come in the later red phase, while having all of the grapes at that ripeness level may not make the best wine. So, you can have a sort of field blend from a single variety from a single block of a vineyard. You can be very labor intensive in managing that exactly how you want.

As far as leaves go, some respectable winemakers don't mind or even prefer some fully brown dried-out leaves, believing they add a tea character. Obviously, green leaves will bring green flavors. Not sure I'd ever be comfortable with brown leaves, but I've had plenty of wines that got some and didn't suffer for it.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#30 Post by Casey Hartlip » June 1st, 2019, 1:52 pm

With as many tons we have to pick per day we bust our ass to keep MOG at a minimum. We usually have about 20 pickers, 2 bucket dumpers, and 2 leafers. When dumpers aren't dumping they try to help with leaves.

When we picked per ton rather than per bucket the pace was slower and easier to monitor leaves. I too believe there's nothing wrong with some variation in ripeness as long as it's not BDX stuff as you can get green vegie flavors.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#31 Post by Mark Y » June 1st, 2019, 2:03 pm

It’s great how the smartasses have had their turn and now people who know what they are talking about are chiming in. Love the discussion and learning!
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#32 Post by Alan Eden » June 1st, 2019, 2:09 pm

So if a lot of this is based on appearance of the grapes doesnt that mean the farming aspect is more important than the terroir ?
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#33 Post by David Glasser » June 1st, 2019, 2:19 pm

Mark Y wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 2:03 pm
It’s great how the smartasses have had their turn and now people who know what they are talking about are chiming in. Love the discussion and learning!
Yup, really enjoying the posts here from those ITB.

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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#34 Post by Merrill Lindquist » June 1st, 2019, 2:39 pm

Eric Lundblad wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 11:52 am
Casey Hartlip wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 6:14 am
Eric, I commend you for taking a stab at this.
Thanks Casey!

Btw, when judging ripeness for picking, I'll crush some grapes in a bag and smell the juice...that lets me know what's going on and translates better to the final wine (esp in lower brix situations) without being distracted/influenced by the sugar flavor.
Agreed - this high tech business of crushing berries in a baggie is universally used, near as I can tell. You say you do it in order to smell the juice. We all do that. And we take note of how the color comes on in that high tech baggie. But Eric - can you honestly say you resist the urge to confirm your olfactory sense with the secondary check of the refractometer? I can't resist. It is like blind tasting finished wines - don't you want to know what was REALLY in that blind bottle?
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#35 Post by Merrill Lindquist » June 1st, 2019, 2:47 pm

Alan Eden wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 2:09 pm
So if a lot of this is based on appearance of the grapes doesnt that mean the farming aspect is more important than the terroir ?
Alan - terroir (in my book) is a combination of soil and weather. Farming is dictated by both these components. Bringing in good-looking fruit means that the farmer has maximized his influence on the terroir. But don't ever believe a farmer is in total control of either what is going on in the soil or overhead in the weather. It's different each vintage, and many times during each vintage.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#36 Post by Casey Hartlip » June 1st, 2019, 4:27 pm

I've been told ......so it's just a guess that many of those highly sought after and highly rated Napa Cabs are picked at very ripe levels (like 28-30 brix) and acid bumped and watered back. I think that's how they get that super rich/sexy character. I'd bet they sort out any shriveled berries to stay away from those raisin flavors. We always called them 4x4 wines......4 ph and .4 acid.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#37 Post by GregP » June 1st, 2019, 5:28 pm

Merrill Lindquist wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 2:39 pm
But Eric - can you honestly say you resist the urge to confirm your olfactory sense with the secondary check of the refractometer? I can't resist. It is like blind tasting finished wines - don't you want to know what was REALLY in that blind bottle?
When in the field, and after a number of years of doing this, in same vineyard/rows, one should be pretty much able to "call" numbers. Once the fruit comes in, then sure, you always run numbers, and you do pull berries from various areas/clusters of the bin, squash and blend the juice first. But, in general, you taste for certain flavors when you call a pick. Numbers, like Eric has said, are not always a direct correlation to flavors, with vintage conditions playing the part. Even at same Brix your acidity will differ, year to year, for example. Numbers are arbitrary, flavors never lie.

I used a refractometer once or twice, as a newbie, waaaay back. Its pretty much new, in the box, somewhere in the garage.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#38 Post by Eric Lundblad » June 1st, 2019, 5:52 pm

Merrill Lindquist wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 2:39 pm
Agreed - this high tech business of crushing berries in a baggie is universally used, near as I can tell. You say you do it in order to smell the juice. We all do that. And we take note of how the color comes on in that high tech baggie. But Eric - can you honestly say you resist the urge to confirm your olfactory sense with the secondary check of the refractometer? I can't resist. It is like blind tasting finished wines - don't you want to know what was REALLY in that blind bottle?
I check the brix....smelling the crushed grapes isn't the only thing I do regarding picking. Sometimes I'll get the TA, if I think it's interesting. I track the 'snotball' development, the number of days & how warm it's been since 90% veraison completion, and various other things that are always exciting at the time!

I commented on the grape juice smelling thing cuz of Matt's comment on 'the most important thing here would be to taste the grapes', just to throw out a different perspective. Maybe I should have made that a bit more clear :)

But I don't taste the grapes (generally, once in a while I do) cuz, for me, the sugar gets in the way of making sense of what's going on...but that's just me I guess. Course, I don't make Cab Sauv, which likely is a different kettle of fish (I am making Cab Franc now tho).

Definitions:
Snotball: as grapes mature, the inside goes from rock hard, to firm, to semi-firm, to liquid...the stages in the middle are gelatinous and referred to as a snotball.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#39 Post by T Welch » June 1st, 2019, 5:54 pm

I thought a snotball is one of the pitches in MadBum's arsenal.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#40 Post by Alan Eden » June 1st, 2019, 6:45 pm

Merrill Lindquist wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 2:47 pm
Alan Eden wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 2:09 pm
So if a lot of this is based on appearance of the grapes doesnt that mean the farming aspect is more important than the terroir ?
Alan - terroir (in my book) is a combination of soil and weather. Farming is dictated by both these components. Bringing in good-looking fruit means that the farmer has maximized his influence on the terroir. But don't ever believe a farmer is in total control of either what is going on in the soil or overhead in the weather. It's different each vintage, and many times during each vintage.
Ive never thought of weather being a part of terroir, take that famous crossroads in Burgundy where you have Montrachet one corner, Batard montrachet another and then two much cheaper crus opposite. Now i can fully accept the terroir and farming having an effect, the terroir being the elevation, slope, soil etc but i cant accept the weather changing within 20 yards, between regions and even on large topology changes say 500 ft of elevation but not walking a few feet.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#41 Post by Merrill Lindquist » June 1st, 2019, 6:54 pm

Alan Eden wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 6:45 pm
Merrill Lindquist wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 2:47 pm
Alan Eden wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 2:09 pm
So if a lot of this is based on appearance of the grapes doesnt that mean the farming aspect is more important than the terroir ?
Alan - terroir (in my book) is a combination of soil and weather. Farming is dictated by both these components. Bringing in good-looking fruit means that the farmer has maximized his influence on the terroir. But don't ever believe a farmer is in total control of either what is going on in the soil or overhead in the weather. It's different each vintage, and many times during each vintage.
Ive never thought of weather being a part of terroir, take that famous crossroads in Burgundy where you have Montrachet one corner, Batard montrachet another and then two much cheaper crus opposite. Now i can fully accept the terroir and farming having an effect, the terroir being the elevation, slope, soil etc but i cant accept the weather changing within 20 yards, between regions and even on large topology changes say 500 ft of elevation but not walking a few feet.
Well, Alan, looks like you should read up on microclimates. I don't know about Burgundy, but microclimates are alive and well in Napa Valley, and dialing it down further, in Calistoga alone.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#42 Post by Matthew Brown » June 1st, 2019, 6:59 pm

Alan Eden wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 6:45 pm
Merrill Lindquist wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 2:47 pm
Alan Eden wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 2:09 pm
So if a lot of this is based on appearance of the grapes doesnt that mean the farming aspect is more important than the terroir ?
Alan - terroir (in my book) is a combination of soil and weather. Farming is dictated by both these components. Bringing in good-looking fruit means that the farmer has maximized his influence on the terroir. But don't ever believe a farmer is in total control of either what is going on in the soil or overhead in the weather. It's different each vintage, and many times during each vintage.
Ive never thought of weather being a part of terroir, take that famous crossroads in Burgundy where you have Montrachet one corner, Batard montrachet another and then two much cheaper crus opposite. Now i can fully accept the terroir and farming having an effect, the terroir being the elevation, slope, soil etc but i cant accept the weather changing within 20 yards, between regions and even on large topology changes say 500 ft of elevation but not walking a few feet.
About 5 years ago the Lock'n music festival in Nelson County VA was postponed a day because of a near tornado that ripped apart the stage and sound system a day before their opening in mid August. Less than 2 miles away the Lovingston winery experienced 'zero' damage to their crop.
Shall we discuss weather more?
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#43 Post by Mel Knox » June 1st, 2019, 7:34 pm

I know people who can taste grapes and tell you a lot. But I am not sure if they can tell the difference between really good and great grapes all the time. This is not something you can learn in fifteen minutes.

Merrill is right about micro climates. In the immortal words of Anna Banana Danna, "There's always somethin'!" This is especially true when you are at the border of where grapes can be ripened every year.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#44 Post by John Morris » June 1st, 2019, 7:44 pm

Alan Eden wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 6:45 pm

Ive never thought of weather being a part of terroir, take that famous crossroads in Burgundy where you have Montrachet one corner, Batard montrachet another and then two much cheaper crus opposite. Now i can fully accept the terroir and farming having an effect, the terroir being the elevation, slope, soil etc but i cant accept the weather changing within 20 yards, between regions and even on large topology changes say 500 ft of elevation but not walking a few feet.
Micro-climate is very much a component of terroir, which is the sum of the factors affecting wines at a site-- geology, drainage, orientation to the sun, etc. You can't leave out climate.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#45 Post by Alan Eden » June 1st, 2019, 8:03 pm

My point is that climate and even micro-climate must have some level of topographic resolution, i get it can change with even as much as 500yds or even 3-500 feet of elevation or different sun exposures but im not buying into 20-30 ft across a level roadway
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#46 Post by JDavisRoby » June 1st, 2019, 8:21 pm

Ever been on a golf course and one hole is raining and another is not?
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#47 Post by Matthew Brown » June 1st, 2019, 8:29 pm

JDavisRoby wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 8:21 pm
Ever been on a golf course and one hole is raining and another is not?
Pffft. Golf is a shepherd game. Wine is for aristocracy. What happens on the land is immaterial
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#48 Post by Wes Barton » June 1st, 2019, 8:53 pm

Alan Eden wrote:
June 1st, 2019, 8:03 pm
My point is that climate and even micro-climate must have some level of topographic resolution, i get it can change with even as much as 500yds or even 3-500 feet of elevation or different sun exposures but im not buying into 20-30 ft across a level roadway
Cold air flows downward. You can have areas of a vineyard that pool cold air (and are far from apparent they would do so, just looking at the land). Maybe that means delayed bud break, the grapes being a little behind, but ripening at the same rate during summer, then slowing down near harvest in cooler years. It can be a very small area.
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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#49 Post by Marcu$ Stanley » June 2nd, 2019, 10:46 am

D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 2:03 pm
Alan Eden wrote:
May 31st, 2019, 9:37 am
Are the smartass answers because nobody knows or you just a bunch of smartasses ?
Smartass answers for dumbass questions.
I know Alan takes a lot of heat around here but I don’t think this is a dumb question at all. I think it’s a great question and really interesting. It’s a very common assumption is that wine quality is mainly determined by grape quality so what really is the difference between mediocre grapes and great grapes? You should in some way be able to see it taste it touch it or smell it in the raw grapes. Very penetrating question

There have been some really good / thoughtful answers from winemakers too — I’m learning a lot!

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Re: How do you tell great grapes from average grapes

#50 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » June 2nd, 2019, 10:53 am

I was really hoping he would ask Bart Starr.
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