The Impact of Different Leaf Pulling Treatments in Cabernet Franc (in Collaboration with Cain Hickey) (2017)

This study examines the impact of different leaf pulling regimes on ripening in Cabernet Franc. Grapes received either: 1) No leaf pulling, 2) Standard leaf pulling (leaf pulling before mid-June on East side of vine), 3) pre-bloom leaf pulling (May 17, both sides of vine), 4) post fruit-set leaf pulling (June 2, both sides of vine), 5) Mechanical leaf pulling (May 26, post fruit-set, both sides of vine), 6) bagged clusters (July 22). Grapes were harvested on the same day. All other treatments were identical. Mechanical Leaf Pulling and Post-Fruit Set Leaf Pulling had the smallest average berry weight (no data is available for the bagged clusters). Pre-bloom leaf removal saw the greatest increase in average berry weight, but this was not significant when compared with No Leaf Pulling and Post-Fruit Set. Yield per vine was significantly lower on the pre-bloom leaf removal compared to No Leaf Pulling and Post-Fruit Set, but Brix was significantly higher. This yield difference likely resulted from the significantly lower cluster weight in the Pre-Bloom treatment, as well as the lower number of berries per cluster and the lower number of clusters per vine found in the leaf pulling treatments. The Pre-Bloom and Post-Fruit Set treatments spent much more time at critical temperatures between 35-40°C than the No Leaf Pulling treatment, due to greater exposure of the grapes. The Pre-Bloom treatment was overall cooler than the Post-Fruit Set treatment, possibly because of the decreased berries per cluster and thus looser cluster architecture allowing for better air flow and cooling.

Leaf pulling always increased tannin, quercetin, and anthocyanin concentration in grapes, with the greatest concentration of tannin in the Pre-bloom Leaf Removal and anthocyanin and quercetin in the Post-Fruit Set Leaf Removal. Leaf-pulled juice tended to have less malic acid and lower YAN. In general, TA and color was higher in finished wine with leaf pulling, with the greatest increases seen in post-fruit set leaf pulling. Caftaric acid, gallic acid, quercetin, tannin, and anthocyanin were generally increased by leaf pulling, with the most profound differences found in pre-bloom and post-fruit set leaf pulling. Bagged clusters showed much lower color and tartaric acid.

Due to the complexity of this project, the Mechanical Leaf Pulling and Bagged treatments were not tasted. Overall, descriptive results for these wines were inconsistent between tastings. Wines which had received leaf pulling were generally more preferred by judges, with preferences generally being for early leaf pulling regimes. This study should be repeated several times in order to further validate these results. It should also be performed on different grape varieties, at different sites, and on different trellising systems. More rigorous descriptive work should be performed on these projects, as well.

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The Impact of Bloom Leaf Removal vs Veraison Leaf Removal (2017)

This study examines the impact of leaf pulling at either bloom or at veraison. The goal was to have looser clusters and smaller berries from pre-bloom leaf removal. A block of Cabernet Sauvignon (planted 2006) was divided so that every other row was a different treatment. One row had the four-most basal leaves removed at 30% bloom (mid-May), exposing the entire fruiting zone. Continuous passes were made to ensure fruit zone exposure throughout the season. Every other row had leaves removed at the start of veraison, in mid-August. Grapes were harvested and processed at the same times, and all other vineyard and winemaking treatments were identical between treatments. Each wine received a 6-day cold soak, and 25 days of total maceration. Grapes from prebloom leaf removal had lower TA, malic acid, and tartaric acid, with a similar pH to the control. Tannin was higher in grapes with pre-bloom leaf removal, but anthocyanins were lower. Pre-bloom wine chemistry was similar except for slightly lower acidity. Color intensity and tannin was also slightly increased in the pre-bloom wine, although these differences were not very pronounced. For the triangle test, of 19 people who answered, 6 people chose the correct wine (32%), suggesting that these wines were not significantly different. In general, of those who answered correctly, no preference trends could be seen between wines. For the descriptive analysis, there were no strong trends for the descriptors used in this study. Most descriptive results were mixed, but Pre-bloom leaf pulling may have had slightly lower Acidity and higher Body. It also may have had slightly less Herbaceous/Green  character, but these trends were weak. These results suggest that pre-bloom leaf removal may not always have as large of an impact as is often seen. This practice should be performed more at different sites, on different varieties, and in different vintages (perhaps rainier vintages which may benefit more from this kind of leaf pulling regimen). 

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The Effect of Canopy Area on Ripening and Wine Quality (2017)

This study examines the impact of canopy height and ripening on wine quality in Merlot. Three sets of five rows of Merlot were hedged to different heights in mid-June: 52 inches (High canopy), 44 Inches (Medium canopy, normal height), and 36 inches (Short canopy). All other vineyard treatments were identical. Not much additional shoot growth occurred after hedging. Grapes were harvested on August 25 and processed into separate T Bins. All other treatments were identical. Juice Brix was slightly higher for the short canopy compared to the higher canopy. This may have been due to a seeming resistance to rain dilution seen in the short canopy vine compared to the medium and higher canopy vines. The ethanol, TA, color, and tannin increased with decrease in canopy height, and pH decreased with canopy height. Overall, descriptive analysis had difficulty distinguishing the wines consistently. The short canopy treatment tended to have slightly more Bitterness and Overall Aromatic Intensity. The short canopy wine also exhibited some slight reduction relative to the other two wines, which may have influenced results. Fruit Intensity and Astringency tended to vary between wines between tastings. In general, the high canopy wine tended to be the most preferred. Future studies should examine how bud fruitfulness and yield are impacted by multiple vintages of heavy hedging, pick fruit at different times depending on which treatment is deemed “optimally” ripe, and hedging shoots when they reach their designated height to try to force lateral growth. More studies are needed to confirm the trends seen in this study, as well.

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Leaf Pulling on One vs Two Sides of Petit Verdot Vines (2017)

This study examines the impact of leaf pulling on one vs both sides of the vine in Petit Verdot. Petit Verdot vines (clone 400, planted 2012, 9x4 spacing, ESVC/CW index of 2.4) from the same block were split so that all vines received leaf pulling on the east side at flowering, and one portion of the vineyard received leaf pulling on the west side as well at veraison. Grapes were harvested on the same date, and all winemaking practices were identical between treatments. Must was inoculated with D80, Enzyme CX was added, punched down twice per day until fermentation was complete, and then switched to one punchdown per day during extended maceration (25 days maceration time, total). Juice chemistry was similar between treatments, although leaf pulling on one side resulted in higher alcohol content and lower acidity. Color and anthocyanin were not much impacted by treatments. Seed tannin indices (catechin, epicatechin, and gallic acid) may have been slightly lowered with leaf pulling on both sides. Tannin may have slightly decreased by this treatment, as well. The sensory results suggest that the two wines were significantly different. No strong trends could be seen for the descriptors used in this study,  although Acidity seemed to be lower in the one sided leaf pulling wine. No major preference trends could be seen between treatments. This study should continue to be performed over multiple years, in different regions, as well as on different grape varieties.

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The Effect of Leaf Removal at Bloom vs Leaf Removal at Veraison on Ripeness (2016)

This study examines the impact of removing the 4 most basal leaves from Cabernet Sauvignon vines at 30% bloom. One section of a vineyard block was not leafed at bloom, while another section underwent this leafing treatment. Both treatments received leaf-pulling at veraison. All other vineyard and fermentation practices were the same. Leaf removal at bloom appeared to slightly reduce berry weight, cluster weight, Brix, and yield. Grape phenolics and TA were slightly increased by bloom leaf removal. Wine produced with leaf removal at bloom had lower ethanol, color intensity, and tannin. Judges did not find the wines to be significantly different, and there were no strong preference trends for either wine. Early leaf removal may have had a very weak tendency to increase Overall Aromatic Intensity. The lack of differences are likely due in part to the particular vintage (weather events may have equalized the treatments) and in part due to vegetative growth reducing the effectiveness of the bloom leaf removal. More studies need to be performed in this area in order to draw more conclusions.

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Leaf Pulling Trial with Petit Verdot (2014)

For one half of a single block of Petit Verdot, leaf pulling was done on the east side of the vines. For the other half of the block, leaf pulling was done on both the east and west sides. The leaf pulling was done approximately one month prior to harvest. There were very little chemical differences between the wines, and no significant sensory differences were found.

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