POSTED ON September 2, 2015 | IN Wine Photo of the Day | BY Joe Becerra

Pick early or late? That is a question of Cabernet Sauvignon style.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Hang Time

As you can easily see from this photo (August 26, 2015), these Cabernet Sauvignon clusters are hanging on the vine. When they should be picked is the question for vintners that is so important and affects the style of Cabernet Sauvignon. A restrained, food-friendly Cabernet Sauvignon will be picked earlier in the harvest season. The longer the hang time, the more alcohol and more robust wine. Growers use a device called a refractometer to measure sugar levels in the grape. Less sugar results in less alcohol and more acidity. The longer the Cabernet Sauvignon hangs on the vine, the higher the sugar levels. The Brix reading for early Cabernet Sauvignon is 23-24. For later Cabernet Sauvignon, the Brix reading is 25-26. Another factor is tasting the grape and chewing the seeds. Growers like fewer “green” flavors in the grapes and must wait for those to disappear. With a longer hang time for Cabernet Sauvignon, the weather becomes a factor. Jim Young, the owner of Young Inglewood Vineyards in St. Helena, told me that in 2011 he benefitted from electing to pick Cabernet Sauvignon at lower sugar levels about two weeks before most of the Napa Valley. Those who waited for the sugar levels to climb experienced a significant rainfall and lost the crop. What’s your style of Cabernet Sauvignon?. Do you like the big and robust Cabernet Sauvignon that Robert Parker likes? Do you like a gentler Cabernet Sauvignon like wine writer Jon Bonne is suggesting in his book The New California Wine?


  1. Gloria Riordan says

    What a great video of the harvest! I think I will pour a nice glass of Cabernet and watch it again with an appreciation of all the effort by so many workers to a nice end result.