Vineyard Floor Management and Cluster Thinning Inconsistently Affect ‘Pinot noir’ Crop Load, Berry Composition, and Wine Quality

in HortScience

Growers of high-end ‘Pinot noir’ wine grapes (Vitis vinifera L.) commonly reduce yield by cluster thinning with the goal of increasing fruit quality; however, there are no objectively defined yield targets to achieve optimum fruit composition. Canopy leaf area relative to fruit yield can affect total soluble solids (TSS), and recommendations have been established for warm wine grape production regions. However, the relationship between leaf area and photoassimilation differs among climates and training systems. Leaf area to yield (LA:Y) ratios developed in warm, arid regions may not be suitable for cool, wet regions such as western Oregon. A 3-year field study was conducted to elucidate relationships between canopy to yield ratios and berry composition for ‘Pinot noir’. Vegetative growth and fruit yield were manipulated through competitive cover cropping and cluster thinning. Growth was manipulated in three ways: perennial red fescue (Festuca rubra L.) was grown in 1) both (Grass), 2) one (Alternate), or 3) neither (Tilled) of the alleyways flanking the vine row. Within each vineyard floor treatment, fruit clusters were thinned to one per shoot (Half Crop) or vines were left unthinned (Full Crop). Floor management influenced both canopy size and yield because of altered vine nitrogen (N) status. Effects of crop load on berry components were not always consistent between the crop load metrics used [yield to pruning weight (Y:PW) ratio or LA:Y]. In 2 years, TSS reached a maximum at similar LA:Y; however, this did not necessarily produce optimum TSS. Yield had the greatest influence on pH and total anthocyanins (ACY) in the highest yielding, coolest year. Crop load metrics were not reliable predictors of TSS because of the dominant effect of seasonal variation. Relationships between canopy to yield metrics and other berry components were partially explained by tissue N, photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) through the cluster zone, and/or yield. Cluster thinning to adjust yields may not alter source to sink relationships or canopy to yield ratios enough to overcome ripening limitations in cool climates. Only one wine vintage had sensory differences with Alternate-Half Crop and Alternate-Full Crop wines ranked high quality and Tilled-Half Crop and Tilled-Full Crop wines ranked low quality by both consumer and winemaker panels. Therefore, cluster thinning may have limited impact on wine sensory properties.

Contributor Notes

This research project was led by principal investigator (PI) Skinkis and executed by successive graduate students Vance and Reeve. Project co-PI McLaughlin provided support for statistical analyses of viticulture and fruit composition data, and co-PI Tomasino provided expertise in sensory science design and analysis. Project co-PIs Lee and Tarara provided expertise in methodology, data interpretation, editing, and partial funding. Funds from the Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research (NCSFR), USDA-ARS CRIS (Current Research Information System) project number 2072-21000-047-00D, and the Oregon Wine Board were used, in part, to fund this project.

This publication is a portion of a dissertation by Alison L. Reeve.

We thank Rob Schultz, Bill Stoller, and others of Stoller Family Estate Vineyards (Dayton, OR) for their cooperation in conducting this on-site research and Dr. Alix Gitelman for additional statistics guidance.

Mention of trade names or commercial products in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by Oregon State University or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Corresponding author. E-mail: patricia.skinkis@oregonstate.edu.

Article Sections

Article Figures

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    Influence of the leaf area to yield ratio of Oregon ‘Pinot noir’ on total soluble solids (AC), pH (DF), and titratable acidity (GI) in 2011 (A, D, and G), 2012 (B, E, and H), and 2013 (C, F, and I). (A) y = 19.37x0.050, P < 0.001; (B) y = 22.26x0.057, P < 0.001; (D) y = 0.047x + 3.09, P < 0.001; (E) y = 0.036x + 3.20, P = 0.024; (G) y = 9.60x−0.10, P < 0.001; (H) y = 0.34x + 8.48, P = 0.024.

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    Influence of leaf blade N (A), leaf area (B), and pruning weight (C) on the percent of ambient photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) infiltrated through the fruit zone of Oregon ‘Pinot noir’ during an afternoon at véraison. Leaf blade and leaf area data were collected at véraison, whereas pruning weight data were collected the winter after the growing season. (A) Leaf blade N P < 0.001, year P < 0.001, model P < 0.001, R2 = 0.37 (2012: y = −0.98x + 2.70, 2013: y = −0.98x + 3.14). (B) Leaf area P < 0.001, year P < 0.001, model P < 0.001, R2 = 0.37 (2012: y = −0.09x + 1.46, 2013: y = −0.09x + 1.73). (C) Pruning weight P < 0.001, year and interaction not significant, R2 = 0.56 (y = −0.45x + 1.67).

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    Effect of fruit zone light infiltration [percent ambient photosynthetic photon flux (PPF)] of Oregon ‘Pinot noir’ in the afternoon during véraison on (A) total tannin and (B) total phenolic concentration of ‘Pinot noir’ berries. Tannins: year P < 0.001, ambient PPF P < 0.001, interaction not significant, model P < 0.001, r2 = 0.57 (2012: y = 0.041x + 5.37, 2013: y = 0.041x + 4.34). Phenolics: year P ≤ 0.001, ambient PPF P < 0.001, interaction not significant, model P < 0.001, r2 = 0.40 (2012: y = 0.032x + 6.27, 2013: y = 0.032x + 5.39).

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    Separation of the 2013 ‘Pinot noir’ wines based on canonical variate analysis by treatment scores (A) and sensory loadings (B) obtained from a winemaker sensory panel. Treatments are positioned using centroids with circles representing 95% confidence intervals surrounding the treatment means. G = Grass; A = Alternate; T = Tilled; HC = Half Crop; FC = Full Crop.

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