Harvest is around the corner. Last week we stopped irrigation. This will stop the grapes from growing larger, and will keep the juice nicely concentrated.
We monitor the development of the grapes measuring three variables: sugar content (BRIX), acidity, and ph. And, of course, frequently tasting the grapes is important as well....
As the grapes ripen, sugar levels increase and acid levels go down.
Wine makers target the best balance between sugar level and acidity to make wines that are also well balanced. Picking too early gives low alcohol, high acid wines, but also herbal "green" flavors.
When you harvest too late, you get high sugar (high alcohol) and low acidity "flabby" wines. Overripe grapes produce "plummy, jammy" notes. Depending on the winemaker's wine style objective, and weather, he may choose to harvest in the early ripeness stage. For cabernet sauvignon this gives red fruit characteristics "cherry, strawberry". At later ripeness, flavors change to black fruit, like plum and blackberry.
We use a refractometer to measure sugar level. Two weeks ago the sugar level was 15 BRIX (= sugar %), and yesterday we measured 21 BRIX. However, the acidity level is still too high to make a well balanced wine.
We'll give our grapes a little more time....
Last week I wanted to re-use a couple of old wine barrels as decorative elements in and around the house. Wine barrels have a limited useful life, and can be obtained at reasonable cost from your local winery. Using them for (home) winemaking is not recommended. Once left empty and unsanitized, used wine barrels attract spoilage bacteria pretty quickly. Here are some ideas for giving a wine barrel a second life:
Project 1: garden hose holder and planter.
Saw a barrel in two halves, and drill a hole to allow a garden hose through.
Don't forget to drill a little drainage hole in the bottom. I did.
Since May it only rained twice and -of course- last week after I finished we had a shower. I found two inches of water in my new garden hose holder :-)
The planter comes extra, with no additional effort
Project 2: umbrella stand
Another easy project. I drilled holes in the barrel heads, and ran a 2 inch PVC pipe through it. This acts as a guide for the umbrella pole, so you do not need to search for the bottom hole when inserting the umbrella. Voila, ready.
Searching for more inspiration on the Internet, I found examples of a hammock, folding chair, a side-table, and even a wine tasting bar counter.