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  • Author or Editor: Justin R. Morris x
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Interest in grape juice has risen as the public becomes more aware of natural foods and the specific evidence of healthful benefits of grapes. Among major preharvest conditions that influence quality of grape juice are climate, soil, cultivar, vineyard management, and maturity. Each of these factors exerts its own influence, but complex interactions among these factors must be recognized. For mechanically harvested juice grapes, cultivar takes on special importance to quality and yield as do the production system, harvest machines, postharvest handling systems, and processing method. Grape juice composition has been extensively studied, and production and processing methods have improved over the years. The following discussion deals with developments in grape juice production.

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Mechanization of harvesting, pruning, and other cultural operations on many small fruit crops for the processing market has occurred in response to the scarcity and expense of hand labor. Scientists at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station and other experiment stations in the United States and throughout the world have developed new cultural and fruit-handling systems and have determined the effects of these systems on fruit yield and quality. This research has resulted in the development of prototype and commercial machinery as well as production and handling systems that have assisted in mechanization systems for brambles, strawberries (Fragaria×ananassa Duch.), and grapes (Vitis sp.). Much of this body of work is in commercial use and much is simply available, awaiting circumstances that will be beneficial to implementation.

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A major research thrust of the University of Arkansas Enology and Viticulture Program for the past 37 years has been the development of a total vineyard mechanization system. This new system allows the mechanization of almost all practices in vineyard operations, including dormant and summer pruning, leaf removal, shoot and fruit thinning, canopy management, and harvesting while fruit quality is maintained or enhanced. Research efforts aimed to accomplish these tasks on the 12 major trellising systems used throughout the industry and to derive plans for the sequencing and timing of operations on each of the trellis systems. In 2002, the University of Arkansas patented the Morris-Oldridge Vineyard Mechanization System (M-O System). OXBO International Corp., Clear Lake, WI, purchased the patent and market M-O System components under the name Korvan™ Vineyard System. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of mechanized (machine-farmed) pruning, shoot thinning, and fruit thinning using the M-O System vs. traditional methods of canopy management using hand labor (hand-farmed) in a commercial Vitis vinifera vineyard in the central coast region of California. V. vinifera cultivars evaluated included Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, and Syrah trellised on a lyre system and Merlot, Zinfandel, and Sangiovese trellised on a vertical shoot-positioned (VSP) system. Yield, fruit growth, fruit composition, wine quality, wine sensory attributes, and economics of mechanization were evaluated on machine- and hand-farmed grapes. Mechanized studies were initiated at French Camp Vineyards, Santa Margarita, CA, in 2002. French Camp Vineyards used a balanced cropping concept which incorporated three operations: 1) machine dormant pruning, 2) machine shoot thinning, and 3) machine fruit thinning. Results of research from 2002 to 2005 showed that yield and quality characteristics of machine-farmed grapes were not statistically different from those of hand-farmed grapes for the V. vinifera cultivars in this study. Wines from each cultivar and treatment were produced at a commercial winery and after appropriate aging, were sensory-evaluated by a professional wine analysis service. Few sensory differences were found between wines from the two farming systems. Further objective analyses of the wine components showed no commercially practical differences. In 2006, cost estimates were derived for the three vineyard activities necessary to achieve balanced cropping. Use of machine farming for balanced cropping operations resulted in savings over hand farming of 45% on the lyre trellis, 49% on the VSP system, and 62% on the quadrilateral trellis for the operations studied. Studies of mechanization of vineyard activities using the M-O System to achieve balanced cropping have shown that grapes and their wines were equivalent to those obtained using hand labor for these operations with the added benefit of cost savings for the operations evaluated.

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There has been a nationwide explosion of interest in consumption of red wine following a “60 Minutes” television segment entitled “The French Paradox.” The paradox was due to the fact the French consume more fat, smoke more, and exercise less than Americans and still have fewer heart attacks. A study of 12,000 male British doctors showed that moderate drinkers had the lowest death rates and the lowest vascular death rates compared to nondrinkers or heavy drinkers. The consumption of wine has been shown to provide healthful benefits, such as reducing cholesterol and decreasing cardiovascular disease. A comprehensive literature review of the latest scientific information on this subject is presented in this review.

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