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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