Background and Aims: Climate change is advancing grape ripening and decoupling sugar and phenolic maturity, impacting wine typicity. The aim of this study was to test whether late leaf removal (LLR) under different watering regimes delayed harvest of two Spanish red cultivars in a semi-arid and temperate-warm climate. Methods and Results: In two trials carried out in eastern Spain with the Bobal and Tempranillo cultivars, vines were partially defoliated above the bunch zone shortly before veraison under rainfed and deficit irrigation conditions during two seasons. The rate of grape ripening in both cultivars was significantly affected by LLR under either watering regime, consequently delaying harvest. Vine water status and leaf photosynthetic rate were improved by LLR. The reduction in leaf area-to-fruit ratio resulting from the LLR treatments was found to be more limiting for the accumulation of anthocyanin than for TSS. Consequently, LLR negatively affected wine colour intensity. In addition, yield was constrained by LLR in Tempranillo due to a reduction in bunch and berry mass. Conclusions: The reduction in the rate of accumulation of grape TSS provoked by LLR did not necessarily result in a more balanced berry maturity. The effectiveness of the LLR technique appears to depend on its final impact on leaf area-to-fruit ratio and vine water status, the cultivar photosynthetic compensation capacity and the environmental conditions. Significance of the Study: Late leaf removal might not be effective for coupling anthocyanin and TSS in berries under moderate water stress conditions, given the observed reductions in red wine colour.
- Vitis vinifera
- global warming
- technological and phenolic ripeness
- vine yield