Grape berry size is a key factor in determining New Zealand Pinot noir wine composition

Journal Article
Making high quality but affordable Pinot noir (PN) wine is challenging in most terroirs and New Zealand (NZ)’s situation is no exception. To increase the probability of making highly typical PN wines, producers choose to grow grapes in cool climates on lower fertility soils while adopting labour intensive practices. Stringent yield targets and higher input costs necessarily mean that PN wine cost is high, and profitability lower, in affordable varietal wine ranges. To understand if higher-yielding vines produce wines of lower quality we have undertaken an extensive study of PN in NZ. Since 2018, we established a network of twelve trial sites in three NZ regions to find individual vines that produced acceptable commercial yields (above 2.0 kg per metre of row) and wines of composition comparable to “Icon” labels. Approximately 20 % of 660 grape lots (N = 135) were selected within a narrow juice Total Soluble Solids (TSS) range of 22.0 ± 1.0 °Brix and made into single-vine wines under controlled conditions. Multiple Factor Analysis of the vine, berry, juice and wine parameters from three vintages found grape Berry Weight to be the most effective clustering variable. As the Berry Weight category decreased, there was a systematic increase in the probability of higher berry red colour and total phenolics with a parallel increase in wine phenolics and decreased juice amino acids. The influence of berry weight on wine composition would appear stronger than the individual effects of Vintage, Region, Vineyard or vine Yield. Our observations support the hypothesis that it is possible to produce PN wines that fall within an “Icon” benchmark composition range at yields above 2.5 kg per vine, provided that the Leaf Area:Fruit Weight ratio is above 11 cm² per g, mean berry weight is below 1.2 g and juice TSS is above 22 °Brix.