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To produce great wine, the fruit should have a high (but not overly high) sugar content or "brix." Brix is the term used to designate the percentage of sugar in the grapes before fermentation. For example, 23° brix will be converted by yeast to 12.5 percent alcohol, more or less, depending on the conversion efficiency of the strain of yeast used. When making your own wine, you must monitor the sugar level with your hydrometer, a handy device you can buy at a winemaking supply shop. The fruit should taste sweet, ripe and slightly tart. When wine making, to bring the sugar concentration up, make a sugar syrup by dissolving one cup of sugar into one-third of a cup of water. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan and immediately remove from heat. Cool before adding in small amounts, one tablespoon at a time. To lower the sugar level, simply dilute your must or juice with water. The temperature of your must can also be adjusted to provide the perfect environment for yeast cells. Warming up the juice gently (don't cook or boil it) is an easy way to bring it to pitching temperature without damaging the quality of the wine. Fermentation can sometimes reach into the 80 F to 90 F range, though the 70 F range is standard for reds (whites often are fermented at cooler temperatures).
|Sheri Ann Richerson|