BACKGROUND: Early defoliation is a very innovative technique in viticulture used for yield management. The effects of early leaf removal performed manually and mechanically at two different phenological stages, pre-bloom and fruit set, on the volatile composition of Tempranillo (Vitis vinifera L.) wines were studied. Volatiles were identified and quantified by gas chromatography.
RESULTS: Early leaf removal only modified the total concentrations of C6 compounds and acetates, whereas total alcohols, esters, volatile acids and terpenes remained generally unaffected. Early defoliation induced a significant reduction in C6 compounds and increased the concentrations of acetates in Tempranillo wines. An effect of timing (pre-bloom vs fruit set) alone was observed for all acetates analysed. Regarding the method of defoliation (manual vs mechanical), significant differences in some ethyl ester (ethyl-2-methylbutyrate and ethyl octanoate) and volatile acid concentrations were observed among treatments. Ethyl octanoate, 2-phenylethyl acetate, 3-methylbutyl acetate and hexanoic acid, with OAV (odour activity value) > 1 and mainly fruity and floral odour descriptors, showed higher levels after early defoliation treatments compared with non-defoliated vines. Principal component analysis illustrated the difference in wines from defoliated and non-defoliated treatments based on their volatile composition.
CONCLUSION: It can be concluded that early leaf removal significantly modified the wine aroma compounds, increasing or decreasing several of these compounds. Copyright © 2011 Society of Chemical Industry