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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