Weekly wine defined: Brix

This week we’re defining Brix, which also happens to be part of the name one of my favorite restaurants in Gig Harbor — Brix 25˚.

If you Google the term Brix, you quickly see the Gig Harbor restaurant isn’t the only place capitalizing on this wine term. Cafes, bars, restaurants and cellars from Tacoma to Boston pop up in the search window.

So what does this mean? And how is it pronounced? (Think “bricks”, like what’s used to pave walkways or construct buildings).

The term is used to measure the amount of sugar in wine. You may have noticed this term in winemaker notes, or on the labels of some wines, saying grapes used were harvested at (insert number here)-degree Brix.

Winemakers care about the degree Brix of grapes because they want to harvest the crop when the fruit is at its peak — the sugars are in balance with the acids. Knowing the sugar levels of a grape helps the winemaker during the fermentation process (remember yeast eats sugar, which makes alcohol).

It’s a term also used by the starch and sugar manufacturing industry to measure the sugars in fruits, vegetables, juices and soft drinks.

When it comes to wine, each degree Brix (often written using the symbol: °Bx) is equal to about 1 gram of sugar per 100 grams of the juice produced. Typically wines that could be defined as table variety have a Brix reading between 20 and 25 degrees at harvest. More than half of this sugar is converted to alcohol during the fermentation process.

You’ll often see degrees Brix referenced with dessert wine, which signals its sweetness. For example, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Eroica (one of its lines of dessert wines produced with German winemaker Ernst Loosen) lists the degree Brix on its wine fact sheet.

For the 2006 Eroica Riesling Ice Wine, the grapes were harvested at 36.7˚ Brix. The wine has an alcohol content of 7.5 percent, and residual sugar of 26.1 g/100ml.

The 2006 Eroica Single Berry Select has an even higher harvested brix at 51.9˚ and 41g/100ml of residual sugar. Its alcohol content is 7.1 percent.