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  • foodie in lawyer's clothing Apr 1, 2002 01:42 PM
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Saw this on my bottle of Syrah last night. Is it a varietal? Or what? I've driven past a restaurant with the same name in Yountville, Ca. (I'm from D.C.) but don't know what it means. Help???

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  1. Professor A. F. W. Brix was a 19th Century German chemist. He was the first to measure the density of plant / natural juices by floating a hydrometer in them. BRIX is a measure of the percent solids in a given weight of natural juice. Brix is often expressed another way: Brix equals the pounds of sucrose, fructose, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, and other solids in one hundred pounds of a particular natural juice.

    Brix varies directly with plant quality. For instance, a poor, sour tasting grape from worn out land can test 8 or less BRIX. A full flavored, delicious grape, grown on rich, fertile soil can test 24 or better Brix. Similarly, the tasteless, almost bitter cantaloupe from the salad bar cannot be compared to the 18 Brix luscious delight that ripened on the vine. All fruits & vegetables are subject to the same laws.

    Please remember that sugar is only one of the components of Brix. Also understand that many substances can give "false" Brix readings. For instance, try rubbing alcohol, whiskey, vinegar, or wine. Cooking oil, molasses, syrup, and other thick liquids require a refractometer calibrated to read 30-90 Brix. Honey is checked with a refractometer calibrated to measure the water within it instead of the solids in the water. Brix is not sugar! You can prove it to yourself by, say, putting a teaspoon of sugar in some ordinary orange juice. It will NOT taste better.

    10 Replies
    1. re: The Rogue
      John Whiting

      Thanks for that; I'm impressed! I wonder what the brix reading would have been on a grapefruit I once ate in Arizona which had been ripening on the tree all winter and into the following spring. It tasted as though it had been syringed full of sugar syrup, but the flavor was much more intense than mere added sugar would have produced.

      1. re: John Whiting

        I bet it was fantastic! All those other compounds gathering together to make it so amazing.
        Did you hear that the Japanese have come up with a new term for flavor besides the old basics of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty? I can't remember exactly off the top of my head but I seem to recall it categorized the "otherness" to flavor that made it an enjoyable flavor or not. Sounds like that grapefruit had lots of that.

        1. re: The Rogue

          the term that you are referring to is: umami. The so called fifth taste. It has some interesting ramifications for the food & wine pairing world. Tim Hanni has done quite a lot of writing & lecturing on this subject. Here's a link that may prove interesting reading for you.

          Link: http://www.novusvinum.com/interviews/...

          1. re: The Rogue
            Melanie Wong

            Gordon's provided a link in the message below for a recent interview with Tim Hanni on umami. Here's another link for a lively discussion with Tim on the Chowhound boards.

            Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              That's a great thread. I ended up compiling the whole thing to re-read again at leisure. Thanks

        2. re: The Rogue
          Melanie Wong

          Yes, it's correct that brix does not only measure sugar. Yet, the question arose from a wine label. The dissolved solids in grape juice intended for winemaking are about 90% sugar.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Sounds like you are trying to start an arguement where there is none. The facts speak for themselves. Yes some grape juices used for wines have up to 90% sugars, others have much, much less. Brix is a measure of all the dissolved and undissolved substances in a liquid. Any definition of Brix takes into account the total substances, not just the sugar, because of the all important fact that sweetness and mouth feel are not all about sugar. There are substances that when mixed with sugars make the sugar taste less sweet or more sweet. (remember the glycol incidents a few years ago?)That is why a refractometer is necessary, besides a hydrometer, to figure out in more detail the amount of sugar verse other substances in a liquid. So a wine with a higher sugar levels may taste less sweet than one with less sugars. Alcohol levels, as well as nitrates, sulphates, and salt levels (all salts not just table salt) affect the sweetness and Brix levels. The term Brix has been lately corrupted by some users to be different than that intended by the inventor. It was meant to help categorise the other compounds besides sugars leading to sweetness and flavor.

            1. re: The Rogue
              Melanie Wong

              My dear Rogue, it's very odd indeed to be accused of trying to start an argument when I've stated my agreement with your definition of Brix!

              You may want to do some additional reading on the notions of physiological ripeness and phenolic maturity to further develop your ideas about flavor interactions.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Melanie- Oops, sorry, long night last night. Thanks for your suggestions, they sound good and I am looking forward to further research.

          2. re: The Rogue
            Fred and Wilma

            How are degrees Oechsle different than degrees brix?

          3. Brix is a scientific measurement of the amount of sugar in a given amount of liquid.