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Effects of solar ultraviolet radiation and canopy manipulation on the biochemical composition of Sauvignon Blanc grapes

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Background and Aims:  New Zealand is exposed to relatively high solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation; such high irradiances of UV radiation having the potential to change the biochemical composition of plants. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of UV radiation and the role of canopy leaves on berry biochemical composition in Vitis vinifera var. Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is the major grape variety grown in New Zealand.

Methods and Results:  Leaves were removed from around the fruiting zones of vines and screens that altered UV radiation exposures were placed over the grape bunches. Samples taken throughout development were analysed for changes in total phenolic compounds (including flavonols), amino acids and methoxypyrazines. Total phenolic compounds increased substantially in response to UV‐B exposure and this was reflected in changes taking place within the skins of the berries. Flavonol levels were determined by UV‐B radiation exposure and accumulated to maximum concentrations at veraison, subsequently declining to harvest. UV radiation did not have a significant effect on the majority of amino acids or methoxypyrazine concentrations. The most noticeable change in amino acid and methoxypyrazine accumulation was caused by the presence of leaves over the fruiting zone, retaining these leaves maintained significantly higher concentrations in the berries at harvest.

Conclusions:  UV‐B radiation determines the composition of flavonols in the skins of grapes. Amino acid and methoxypyrazine concentrations are not predominantly determined by UV‐B, but retention of leaves over the fruiting zone promotes their accumulation in berries.

Significance:  Canopy manipulations are routinely used commercially in the vineyard to help control vigour and reduce disease pressure. The findings presented here are important for viticulturists to understand how management of the vine leaf canopy can determine the biochemical composition of the grapes and can therefore, ultimately affect wine quality.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Centre for Viticulture and Oenology, PO Box 84, Lincoln University, Lincoln 7647, Canterbury, New Zealand 2: Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand 3: Department of Biology, Trinity University, San Antonio, TX 78212-7200, USA 4: The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd, Marlborough Wine Research Centre, PO Box 845, Blenheim 7240, New Zealand

Publication date: 2012-06-01

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