The Berry Sensory Analysis of Love Potion #2009

Director of Winemaking Daniel Baron and Grower Relations Manager Nick Filice walk the vineyards and check grape maturity using the Berry Sensory Analysis techniques.

Each new vintage presents an opportunity to improve. In 2009, our Director of Winemaking, Daniel Baron, implemented the use of a break-though method called Berry Sensory Analysis to better determine the maturity level of our fruit and ensure we harvest our Cabernet Sauvignon at optimal ripeness.

Traditionally, the decision to harvest was based upon a grape sample’s juice chemistry, specifically degrees brix (% sugar), pH and Total Acidity. However, studies and practical observations have shown that grapes with the same juice chemistry can make very different wines. Indeed, we have come to learn that the quality of red wine is determined by the ripeness of the skins. The color, tannins and aromatics of a wine come from the cell walls in the skins and the first layer of cells just beneath them. When a grape reaches full maturity, the cell walls have broken down, allowing the contents of the cells to enter the wine solution. Therefore, to accurately measure a grape’s maturity, we must also find a way to assess the maturity of the skins.

Berry Sensory Analysis is a process that takes into consideration the pulp, seeds and skin to determine maturity. Through a series of sensory tests using sight, touch and taste, our Winemaking Team evaluates a grape’s softness, color, stalk removal, pulp, seeds and skin. Each element of the grape is given a score from one to six; one is under-ripe, six is over-ripe and four is optimal ripeness. Once the scores begin to align around the number four, the fruit has reached maturity and is ready for harvest. During a growing season, the same blocks are evaluated multiple times a week, sometimes even multiple times a day, leading up to the ultimate decision of when to harvest.

Daniel is excited about the use of Berry Sensory Analysis because it has provided him and his team with a methodology by which to evaluate the grapes. Prior to Berry Sensory Analysis, Daniel had always tasted the fruit to help determine when to pick, but he didn’t have a way to quantify what he tasted. He explains the decision to harvest was less precise and more subjective. Now, he has a specific protocol to focus and evaluate what he sees, feels and tastes.

Our Winemaking Team is energized by the improvements they’ve already been able to make to our winemaking processes with Berry Sensory Analysis. We can’t wait to share the end results with you at our 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Release Day at our Oakville winery on Saturday, August 3rd!