Thumbnail Image

The effect of shading and crop load on flavour and aroma compounds in Sauvignon blanc grapes and wine

Ford, Rebecca J.
Fields of Research
The effects of crop load and berry exposure on the composition of Marlborough Sauvignon blanc grapes and wine from the Brancott vineyard, Blenheim, were explored. Commercially grown, 2-cane and 4-cane Sauvignon blanc vines were used with a row orientation of north-south. Two exposure treatments were imposed in the following manner: complete leaf removal was undertaken in the fruit zone and 50% shade cloth was erected to give a uniform shading treatment to half the trial vines. Weekly thirty-berry and whole bunch samples were taken from each of the 32 plots with the exception of the veraison period when two samples per week were taken. Vine vigour was assessed using pruning and leaf area per vine data. Harvest occurred on different dates for 2-cane and 4-cane pruned vines so that fruit attained from both treatments had similar °Brix. Fruit was processed at the Lincoln University winery. Must analysis and wine analysis were undertaken. As expected, 4-cane vines had almost double the yield of 2-cane vines. Higher crop load significantly reduced leaf area per shoot and shoot thickness. Lower leaf area to fruit ratio for 4-cane berries resulted in delayed onset of veraison and slowed the rate of sugar accumulation. Crop load, which limited leaf area to fruit ratio, appeared to be the dominant factor in determining timing of grape physiological ripeness as expressed by °Brix over other factors such as fruit exposure. Malic acid, tartaric acid, IPMP (iso-propylmethoxypyrazine) and IBMP (iso-butyl-methoxypyrazine) were lower at equivalent °Brix in 4-cane compared with 2-cane berries. Significantly higher concentrations of quercetin were found in exposed compared to shaded berries. Must analysis showed a significant influence of crop load on berry titratable acidity and pH, reflecting berry ripening results. Exposure significantly increased the concentrations of nitrogenous compounds in 4-cane must yet showed no influence on 2-cane must. After wine processing lower malic acid concentrations in wines made from 100% exposed fruit became evident in lower wine titratable acidity but showed no influence on wine pH. Bentonite addition to wines had a small but statistically significant influence on wine by reducing pH, titratable acidity and alcohol. Bound sulphur concentrations were significantly higher in 4-cane versus 2-cane wines. At harvest, methoxypyrazine levels in grapes and wines were very low; IBMP concentrations where significantly lower than those normally found in Sauvignon blanc wines from Marlborough. This was attributed to the absence of basal leaves from the shoots of ripening berries. The results suggest that leaf area to fruit ratio is a powerful determinant of grape and wine quality.