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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