Specs on grapes, wine and dossage

Forgive me if I am going into an area that you had not intended. We are fortunate to have you here to address our questions.

What pH, Brix and TA do you consider to for a Pinot Noir and for a Chardonnay to go into your wines?

What is your ideal finished pH, and TA?

Do you adjust your dossage depending on the acidity of the batch, and if so how?

We are a small producer of Brut Sparkling in Humboldt County. We’d be more than happy to send you samples for your feedback.

Dear Andrew,

Thanks for these questions, since I rarely have the opportunity to discuss these issues. The first thing I would like to say is that we do not pick grapes based upon a fixed maturity target. The Champagne region is cool climate: this allows for dramatic variations in maturity from vintage to vintage (and still can lead to outstanding wines).

Regarding the acceptable ranges for the three main parameters:

  • between 17 and 20 brix
  • between 9 and 18 TA (total acidity, as tartaric)
  • between 2.95 and 3.20 for pH

As you can see these ranges are quite broad, it only means the secret does not lie with these figures. I would actually say that too many winemakers put too much emphasis on acidity as a picking criteria; not to mention that it is not a good indicator of a champagne’s ageworthiness either (the low acidity 1976 Dom Pérignon ages just as well as the high acidity 1996).

Beyond these 3 parameters, and more to the point, we are developping the measurement of the sugar mass in berries, which is more reliable than looking at sugar concentration. We also started to monitor phenolic maturity as for great red wines.

This being said, the absolute true test is in tasting the grapes themselves, watching for a definite quality of the fruit, ripe enough without being flabby, displaying a vibrant aromatic profile without vegetal notes.

To address your last point, we certainly adjust our dosage to acidity levels, since it helps bring overall balance to the finished wine. Coming back to my example of 1976 and 1996: 1976 had low acidity therefore only 2g/L dosage (Oenothèque release); 1996 had high acidity and 6g/L dosage (Oenothèque release). As you can see in any case our dosage remains on the low side, and is tailored to each individual vintage.

Finally, please get in touch with me regarding the samples, I would certainly like to taste them: as you might know I have been making wine overseas for quite a few years and I am always interested in the latest developments outside of Champagne.

Best regards,

Dear Richard,

Thank you very much for your detailed reply to my questions.

I am grateful that you have taken the time to share your wealth of experience here on an open forum.

The information that you provided is helpful in my development as I begin the process of succeeding my stepfather as winemaker. Regarding regional temperatures, the climate in our part of Humboldt County, at least in terms of degree days, is more similar to Champagne than it is to any other region of France. It was the climate data that we collected in the 70’s that lead us to making sparkling wines here.

I will contact you regarding logistics on how to get samples to you. I really appreciate this.

Thanks again for being here at WIne Berserkers.