Vineyard Sprays to Improve Ripening in Merlot (in collaboration with VT) (2017)

This study examines the impact of different desiccation sprays on the resulting juice and wine chemistry of Merlot. 8 rows of Merlot from the same block were divided into 4 pairs, each pair of rows receiving a different treatment. The following treatments were performed: 1) Control (no spray), 2) RG 1950 spray in collaboration with Dr. Mizuho Nita, where rows were sprayed 4 times weekly, over four weeks, starting from veraison, 3) VT Tech Dehydration spray in collaboration with Dr. Bruce Zoecklein, where rows were treated on the fruit zone at approximately 19 degrees Brix using a 2% solution of methyl esters of fatty acids in a 2% solution of potassium carbonate in water, and 4) Sugar Express (Miller Chemical) Spray (4-10-40 Nitrogen-Phosphate-Potash), where rows were treated on the full canopy at approximately 19 degrees Brix at 10 lbs/acre. All other viticultural and winemaking practices were equal. Grapes were harvested on September 20, after processing musts were inoculated with D21, and each fermentation received a 16 day maceration. The two VT sprays had the greatest impact on Brix and Average Berry weight during ripening. Fluctuations are due to rain events around September 2 and September 6. The VT sprays produced juice with higher Brix, although the Zoecklein spray had higher TA and the RG 1950 had lower TA. Wine chemistry showed higher ethanol for these two sprays, higher TA and tartaric acid for all three sprays, and lower levels of lactic acid. Color intensity was increased by the desiccation sprays. Anthocyanins were slightly lowered for the VT sprays, although polymeric anthocyanin was increased for these sprays. Tannin showed slight increases for these sprays as well. These phenolic differences, however, were not very great.

Overall, the desiccation sprays had a tendency to lower the Herbaceous character of the wines. Overall Aromatic Intensity and Body tended to be increased by the Zoecklein spray, although RG 1950 also had a slight tendency to increase Body. These two sprays also had a slight tendency to increase Fruit Intensity, although this was weak. In general, the control wine was more similar to the Sugar Express treatment, and the two Virginia Tech desiccation sprays were more similar to each other. Preference trends were hard to determine, but the Sugar Express treatment tended to be less preferred. The two Virginia Tech desiccation sprays were perhaps slightly more preferred control when considering that these two wines were fairly similar to each other. These results suggest that desiccation sprays may be a valuable tool in Virginia winemaking, and studies like these merit more rigorous analysis, especially with regard to sensory attributes of the wines. These studies should be continued to be repeated, on multiple varieties over multiple vintages.

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Vineyard Sprays to Improve Ripening in Cabernet Franc (in collaboration with Bruce Zoecklein) (2017)

This study examines the impact of vineyard desiccant sprays on grape ripening and wine quality in Cabernet Franc. A block of Cabernet Franc was divided so that part of the block was backpack-sprayed with a desiccant spray (2% solution of methyl esters of fatty acids in 2% solution of potassium carbonate in water) provided by Bruce Zoecklein. The spray treatment occurred when the grapes had reached approximately 19 Brix (September 22, 2017) and clusters were coated until dripping with spray. Grapes were harvested on September 28 and were processed identically. Wines were pressed after 11 days of maceration. Cluster weight, total anthocyanins, and tannin were decreased in sprayed fruit. Brix was increased and acidity was decreased in sprayed fruit as well. Alcohol and potassium were higher in the sprayed wine, and acidity was lowered. Color, tannin, and polymeric anthocyanin were also higher in the sprayed wine, in spite of opposite trends being seen in this regard with the grapes. Overall, these wines were found to be significantly different. There was a tendency for the desiccated wine to have higher Body. Desiccated wines had a slight tendency for higher Acidity and Astringency, and lower Fruit Intensity. However, more sensory studies are needed to confirm these trends. There may have been a very slight preference for the non-desiccated wine. In the future, more studies should be performed on fruit desiccation, as it has potential to be a useful tool in Virginia grape growing. These studies should include the timing of desiccation sprays before harvest.

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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 Bagging Grape Clusters on Grape Ripening and Quality (in Collaboration with VT) (2017)

This study examines the impact of bagging grape clusters during the growing season on grape and wine flavor, chemistry, microbiology, and phenolics. The vineyard uses organic grape growing practices, and the goal of this project was to see if bagging grape clusters would improve disease resistance without negatively impacting grape and wine quality. The bags used were 19x27cm white paper bags with micropores. Corot Noir grapes in one block experienced 4 treatments: 1) not bagged, 2) bagged at pea-sized berries, 3) bagged at berry touch, and 4) bagged at veraison. Because of a prediction of reduced disease incidence in bagged clusters relative to unbagged clusters, and because unbagged, rotting clusters were going to be dropped during the season, green harvesting of the treatment clusters was undertaken on lagging blooming clusters at berry set in order to attempt to keep crop levels similar between treatments. Lagging clusters were also not bagged on treatment rows. Control and treatment grapes were harvested 2 days apart from each other, and the 3 treatments were combined into one must to ferment. Both control and treatment musts received a 10% saignee, both were inoculated with Renaissance Ossia yeast, and all other treatments between wines were equal. Both bins received 2 weeks extended maceration. Bagging clusters might have reduced incidence of black rot, with the earlier bagging treatments being more effective; however, more intensive work is needed to confirm this. The grape treatments generally exhibited slight increases in berry weight and cluster weight, as well as increases in malic acid, pH, and YAN. Juice and wine chemistry was not much impacted, except that acidity was lowered in the bagged treatment. Bagging clusters lowered the microbial content of the juice, although wine was not much impacted. All phenolic and color parameters, in grape and wine, were either reduced or did not change as a result of bagging. 64% of people were able to distinguish the wines in triangle testing, suggesting a statistically significant difference between them (p<0.001). Of those who correctly distinguished between the wines, there was not a major preference for one wine over the other, perhaps slightly favoring no bags. There were strong trends for the unbagged treatments to have higher Overall Aromatic Intensity and higher Acidity. There was a slight tendency for Fruit Intensity to be higher in the unbagged treatments as well.

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The Impact of Agrothermal Systems Heat Blast Treatments on Grape Ripening, Wine Chemistry, and Wine Quality in Virginia (2017)

The aim of this experiment was to determine measurable differences of grape quality by utilizing Heat Blast technology used to treat wine grapes. A block of Petit Manseng was divided into two separate sections. One section was treated with heat blast delivery to the canopy and fruiting zones using an Agrothermal Systems XT heat system. The other section was not treated with this technology. The treatment block was treated 1 to 4 times per month depending on stage of growth, with the treatment regime starting around veraison. The majority of treatments were near veraison. Chemical spray regimes were the same between treatments. All other vineyard and winemaking treatments between grapes were equal. Acidity and potassium was slightly lower in the heat-treated grapes. Quercetin and tannin slightly increased in grapes, whereas catechin slightly decreased. Wine chemistry was not very much affected except for lower malic acid levels in the heat treatment. The tannin content of wine with heat treatment was slightly higher for most compounds. Overall, these wines were not found to be significantly different. There was a very slight tendency for the Control to have higher Tropical Fruit intensity, Fruit Intensity, and Body. No major preference trends could be seen between wines. In the future, more studies should be performed with Agrothermal heat treatment and its impacts on fruit chemistry. These studies should look into multiple grape varieties, as well as closely monitor disease progression. The use of Agrothermal heat treatment in conjunction with different vineyard spray regimes should be investigated as well. Although more studies are needed to confirm this, these preliminary results suggest that heat treatment may be a beneficial tool for East Coast viticulture.

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The Effect of Timed Nitrogen and Sulfur Sprays on Sauvignon Blanc (2016)

This study examines the impact of timed Nitrogen and Sulfur sprays on the sensory and chemical attributes of Sauvignon Blanc. A mix of Nitrogen and Sulfur sprayed at 20% veraison and at 50% veraison were applied to 2 out of four segments of a vineyard block. The other segments were unsprayed. The grapes were harvested and processed identically. After racking off of gross lees, the lees were harvested, combined, and centrifuged to create a centrifugate juice (a mix of the lees from the control and sprayed grapes). No major chemical differences were found between the control and treated juice and wines, except that pH was slightly higher. The sprayed wine had a slightly higher level of 3-MH. However, the wine made from the combined lees centrifugate had the highest level of 3-MH and lower levels of 3-mercaptohexylacetate. Additionally, this wine had a longer lag phase during fermentation compared to the other two. Judges were generally able to distinguish between the unsprayed and sprayed treatments, and there was a tendency for the sprayed treatment to be preferred and the centrifuged treatment to be least preferred. The sprayed wine had slight tendencies to have higher Overall Aromatic Intensity, Herbaceous/Green character, and Varietal Character. There were slight trends for the centrifuged wine to have lower Tropical Fruit and Varietal Character than the other treatments, and higher Herbaceous/Green character. These tendencies were all very weak, however.

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The Effect of LalVigne Mature Foliar Spray on the South Side of Merlot Vines (2016)

This study examines the impact of LalVigne Mature Foliar Spray (ScottLabs) on ripeness and the chemical and sensory qualities of the South side of Merlot vines planted East-West. Every other row of a block of Merlot was sprayed at 5% veraison and 10 days later following the LalVigne spray protocol with a tunnel recycle sprayer, allowing for a treatment of sprayed Merlot and a treatment of unsprayed Merlot. Both treatments were harvested only from the South side of the vine (afternoon side) and processed identically and on the same day, but kept separate. All other treatments between projects were identical. The LalVigne spray slightly decreased tannins and anthocyanins in the grape berries. Caffeic acid was higher in wine from grapes treated with LalVigne. Tannin was also increased in wine from grapes sprayed with LalVigne, but anthocyanins were decreased. Triangle sensory testing revealed no significant differences between wines, and there was no strong preference for either wine. The sprayed wines tended to exhibit greater Fruit Intensity, but this was not a strong tendency.

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The Effect of LalVigne Mature Foliar Spray on the North Side of Merlot Vines (2016)

This study examines the impact of LalVigne Mature Foliar Spray (ScottLabs) on ripeness and the chemical and sensory qualities of the North side of Merlot vines planted East-West. Every other row of a block of Merlot was sprayed at 5% veraison and 10 days later following the LalVigne spray protocol with a tunnel recycle sprayer, allowing for a treatment of sprayed Merlot and a treatment of unsprayed Merlot. Both treatments were harvested only from the North side of the vine (morning side) and processed identically and on the same day, but kept separate. All other treatments between projects were identical. The LalVigne spray slightly increased tannins and anthocyanins in the grape berries, but lowered cluster weight (although not berry weight). Anthocyanins were decreased in the wine from grapes treated with the LalVigne spray. Triangle sensory testing found significant differences in the wines (p<0.05), although there was not much of a preference for one wine over the other. No major descriptive sensory trends can be seen.

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The Effect of LalVigne Foliar Spray on Cabernet Franc (2016)

This study examines the impact of LalVigne Foliar Spray (ScottLabs) on ripeness and the chemical and sensory qualities of Cabernet Franc. Every other row of a block of Cabernet Franc was sprayed at 5% veraison and 10 days later following the LalVigne spray protocol with a tunnel recycle sprayer, allowing for a treatment of sprayed Cabernet Franc and a treatment of unsprayed Cabernet Franc. Both treatments were harvested and processed identically and on the same day, but kept separate. All other treatments between projects were identical. The LalVigne spray slightly increased phenolics in the grape berries, but lowered cluster weight (although not berry weight). The LalVigne spray also increased YAN in juice. No chemical or phenolic parameters were very different in the wine. For the triangle test, of 20 people who answered, 12 people chose the correct wine (60%), showing a statistically significant difference between wines (p<0.05). These wines were voted to have an average degree difference of 4.2 (out of 10) among those who correctly identified it, suggesting that the wines were moderately different. In general, people who answered correctly had no preference for one treatment over another. There were no strong trends with regard to the descriptors used in this study.

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The Effect of Desiccation Spray on Ripeness in Chambourcin (2016)

This study examines the impact of a desiccation spray on the chemical and sensory profiles of Chambourcin grapes and wine. One block of Chambourcin was divided so that one section of fruit was sprayed with a potassium bicarbonate desiccant, and another section was not sprayed. The desiccated fruit was sprayed at the beginning of veraison and then weekly for a total of four sprays over four weeks. The fruit was harvested and processed on the same day, and all treatments between the fruit were identical. The desiccation treatment slightly concentrated berry components, although not many differences were found in wine. The desiccation treatment, however, lowered the color intensity and slightly lowered the tannin and anthocyanin content in the wine. Other parameters were not greatly affected. At one tasting, the wines were found to be significantly different (p<0.05), and in general there was a preference for the wine made without desiccation. At another tasting, there was no significant difference between wines, and no major preference trends. More studies on desiccation across vintages would be beneficial to further elucidate the impact of these treatments in Virginia.

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The Effect of Crop Adjustment and Desiccation Spray on Ripeness (2016)

This study examines the impact of different crop adjustment techniques on yield, juice and wine chemistry, phenolic and color profiles, and sensory characteristics of Merlot. The four treatments in this trial were performed in the same vineyard block as follows: two control rows, two rows sprayed with RG 1950 desiccant spray, two rows with clusters dropped at veraison down to one cluster per shoot, and two rows with clusters pinched at approximately 20 Brix. All other treatments, through vinification, were the same. The desiccation spray exhibited faster ripening kinetics and lower average berry weight. At harvest, Brix and pH were not very different, but TA was higher in the treatments. No differences were apparent in wine chemistry. All treatments exhibited increases in color intensity, especially the cluster dropped treatment. In spite of increasing color intensity all treatments lowered anthocyanins. The desiccant treatment slightly increased tannins. The week before harvest, 6 inches of rain fell, which may have reduced the impact of these treatments. Overall, desiccation and crop reduction had a slight tendency to enhance Fruit Intensity. The treatments also tended to enhance Overall Aromatic Intensity. These trends were weak and often conflicted between tastings. There seemed to be a general preference for wines produced from dropped clusters and desiccated clusters, but this varied. The rain event may have reduced the impact of these treatments. This study suggests that crop adjustment techniques have the potential to impact fruit and wine quality in Virginia, but much more studies are needed to fully quantify this impact as well as to account for vintage variation.

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The Effect of LalVigne Foliar Spray on Chambourcin (2016)

This study examines the impact that LalVigne Foliar Spray (ScottLabs) has on the ripeness of Chambourcin grapes. Lalvigne was sprayed at 5% veraison and then 7-9 days later on a 2 acre parcel of Chambourcin at the recommended rate. Control and treatment grapes from the same block were harvested and processed on the same day, fermented separately as 1.5 ton lots in T Bins, and all other treatments between fermentations were kept the same. A third treatment was also added, were 75 pounds of Tannat skins were added to LalVigne-treated grapes at the beginning of fermentation. Although ripening kinetics between each treatment were similar (data not shown), anecdotally, the sprayed berries exhibited more color development. Juice from LalVigne-treated grapes exhibited higher nitrogen numbers (except lower ammonia). Wine produced with Tannat skins added had lower alcohol and pH (58% increase in proton concentration). In general, grapes treated with LalVigne showed increased color intensity and increased amounts of phenolic compounds. The sprayed grapes showed a large increase in Malvidin glucoside but a slightly lower count of monomeric and total anthocyanins. Tannat skins added to the LalVigne sprayed wine showed a smaller increase in color intensity, a larger increase in catechin, epicatechin, gallic acid, and tannin, and a decrease in anthocyanin content. For the triangle test, of 21 people who answered, 9 people chose the correct wine (43%), suggesting the wines were not significantly different. In general, people who answered correctly had a slight preference for the sprayed wine, but this preference was very weak. Descriptive analysis did not show many trends between wines. The control tended to have slightly lower Overall Aromatic Intensity to the sprayed wines, and the wine with Tannat skins seemed to have higher Fruit Intensity. The LalVigne spray wines tended to have slightly higher Herbaceous/Green scores, except for the wine with Tannat added.

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Surround Crop Protectant Trial with Petit Verdot (2014)

Petit Verdot that received heavy leaf pulling was either sprayed or not sprayed with Surround Crop Protectant in the fruiting zone in order to prevent sunburn.  No chemical, phenolic, or sensory differences were found in this study, suggesting that Surround does not negatively impact finished wine quality.  However, this year was a relatively light "sunburn" year at this vineyard, so the true impact of Surround may not have been adequately quantified.

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LalVigne Mature Foliar Spray with Virginia Merlot (2014)

This study examined the chemical and sensory effects of LalVigne Mature Foliar Spray on finished Merlot wine.  There were no chemical differences in the grapes that were harvested in this study; however there were significant sensory differences between the final wines.  People tended to prefer the wine produced without the spray.

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