Grape berry size is a key factor in determining New Zealand Pinot noir wine composition

Making high quality but affordable Pinot noir (PN) wine is challenging in most terroirs and New Zealand’s (NZ) situation is no exception. To increase the probability of making highly typical PN wines producers choose to grow grapes in cool climates on lower fertility soils while adopting labour intensive practices. Stringent yield targets and higher input costs necessarily mean that PN wine cost is high, and profitability lower, in line-priced varietal wine ranges. To understand the reasons why higher yielding vines are perceived to produce wines of lower quality we have undertaken an extensive study of PN in NZ. Since 2018, we established a network of twelve trial sites in three NZ regions to find individual vines that produced acceptable commercial yields (above 2.5kg per vine) and wines of composition comparable to “Icon” labels. Approximately 20% of 660 grape lots (N = 135) were selected from within a narrow juice Total Soluble Solids (TSS) range and made into single vine wines under controlled conditions. Principal Component Analysis of the vine, berry, juice and wine parameters from three vintages found grape berry mass to be most effective clustering variable. As berry mass category decreased there was a systematic increase in the probability of higher berry red colour and total phenolics with a parallel increase in wine phenolics, changed aroma fraction and decreased juice amino acids. The influence of berry size on wine composition would appear stronger than the individual effects of vintage, region, vineyard or vine yield. Our observations support the hypothesis that it is possible to produce PN wines that fall within an “Icon” benchmark composition range at yields above 2.5kg per vine provided that the Leaf Area:Fruit Weight ratio is above 12cm2 per g, mean berry mass is below 1.2g and juice TSS is above 22°Brix.

Authors: Damian Martin1, Rebecca Deeds4, Melodie Lindsay4, Katie Parish-Virtue4, Paul Kilmartin4, Bruno Fedrizzi4, Leandro Dias Araujo5, Tanya Rutan6, Emma Sherman3, Muriel Yvon1, Lily Stuart1, Franzi Grab1, Claire Scofield2, Michelle Schurmann2 and Claire Grose1

1The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited, Marlborough, New Zealand
2The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited, Clyde, New Zealand
3The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited, Auckland, New Zealand
4School of Chemical Sciences, The University of Auckland, New Zealand
5AGLS Faculty, Lincoln University, Christchurch, New Zealand
6Bragato Research Institute, Marlborough, New Zealand


Keywords: Pinot noir, grape, vine, wine, yield, quality, region, terroir

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