Based on earlier findings showing the effectiveness of preflowering leaf removal at reducing yield in several Vitis vinifera L. genotypes, a 3-year study was carried out on Sangiovese vines to evaluate how the technique also affects vegetative growth, wood carbohydrates reserves, and specific physiological traits such as intrinsic water use efficiency (WUEi) and leaf chlorophyll fluorescence. Early defoliation (D) applied before flowering with elimination of ~80% of the leaf area as compared with a non-defoliated control (C) was confirmed as quite effective in limiting yield per vine, cluster weight, cluster compactness and rot incidence, and berry set and mass in two of three seasons. Defoliation also markedly improved relative berry skin mass regardless of season. Vine vigor (pruning weight, cane diameter, and main leaf area) was significantly reduced in D vines (2008–2009 data), whereas vine capacity as total leaf area per vine was not. The leaf-to-fruit ratio dropped dramatically after defoliation to 1 m2/kg in D vines, which recovered thereafter and had a higher ratio from veraison onward. Intrinsic WUE and tolerance to photoinhibition increased in D vines for both main and lateral leaves, which were formed after leaf stripping and which had reached full maturity by the time measurements were made. Berry sugaring was accelerated in D vines, which also showed, at harvest, higher must Brix and phenolic and anthocyanin concentrations than C vines as well as more stable anthocyanins in the wine.
- © 2011 by the American Society for Enology and Viticulture