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Smart, D. R.; Cosby Hess, S.; Plant, R.; Feihn, O.; Heymann, H.; Ebeler, S. (2014)
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects:
The geoscience component of terroir in wine grape production continues to be criticized for its quasi-mystical nature, and lack of testable hypotheses. Nonetheless, recent relational investigations are emerging and most involve water availability as captured by available water capacity (AWC, texture) or plant available water (PAW) in the root zone of soil as being a key factor. The second finding emerging may be that the degree of microscale variability in PAW and other soil factors at the vineyard scale renders larger regional characterizations questionable. Cimatic variables like temperature are well mixed, and its influence on wine characteristic is fairly well established. The influence of mesogeology on mesoclimate factors has also been characterized to some extent. To test the hypothesis that vine water status mirrors soil water availability, and controls fruit sensory and chemical properties at the vineyard scale we examined such variables in a iconic, selectively harvested premium winegrape vineyard in the Napa Valley of California during 2007 and 2008 growing seasons. Geo-referenced data vines remained as individual study units throughout data gathering and analysis. Cartographic exercises using geographic information systems (GIS) were used to vizualize geospatial variation in soil and vine properties. Highly significant correlations (P < 0.01) emerged for pre-dawn leaf water potential (ΨPD), mid-day leaf water potential (ΨL) and PAW, with berry size, berry weight, pruning weights (canopy size) and soluble solids content (°Brix). Areas yielding grapes with perceived higher quality had vines with (1) lower leaf water potential (LWP) both pre-dawn and mid-day, (2) smaller berry diameter and weight, (3) lower pruning weights, and (4) higher °Brix. A trained sensory panel found grapes from the more water-stressed vines had significantly sweeter and softer pulp, absence of vegetal character, and browner and crunchier seeds. Metabolomic analysis of the grape skins showed significant differences in accumulation of amino acids and organic acids. Data vines were categorized as non-stressed (ΨPD ≥ −7.9 bars and ΨL ≥ −14.9 bars) and stressed (ΨPD ≤ −8.0 bars and ΨL ≤ −15.0 bars) and subjected to analysis of variance. Significant separation emerged for vines categorized as non-stressed versus stressed at véraison, which correlated to the areas described as producing higher and lower quality fruit. This report does not advocate the use of stress levels herein reported. The vineyard was planted to a vigorous, deep rooted rootstock (V. rupestris cv. St. George), and from years of management is known to be able to withstand stress levels of the magnitude we observed. Nonetheless, the results may suggest there is not a linear relationship between physiological water stress and grape sensory characteristics, but rather the presence of an inflection point controlling grape composition as well as physiological development.
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