Canopy Management, who cares? Well I do obviously.

This piece comes with a warning, GEEK ALERT. If you do find this piece boring then well, who reads a piece called Canopy Management anyway?

And one more thing ( or one more excuse rather) try and sum up Canopy Management in under 800 words, its not easy but I’ve given it a go!

‘I noticed that whenever Dad would talk about a certain vintage as being exceptional, it always turned out that the harvest had been exceptionally small, as in 1961, when hail the previous year reduced the crop by more than half. So I thought to myself, What if we halved production every year?’  A quote from Mr Angelo  Gaja, taken from the book The Vines of San Lorenzo by Edward Steinberg. This was the start of Canopy Management.

As early as the 60’s winemakers began to have an awareness of Canopy Management and its effect on the Canopy Microclimate, more control could be had in regards to yields, fruit quality and even disease.

The 1950’s saw the widespread use of agrochemicals. The New World was expanding at a great pace in regards to winemaking. High levels of inadequate grapes were being produced and this was a result of over stimulation of the vines, but by managing the canopy, yields could be reduced and fruit of higher quality could be produced.

Dr Nelson Shaulis, began in-depth research into vine Canopy Management in the 1960’s. Training and trellising were the first developments. Dr Shaulis observed that shading was at the root of the problem leading to bad quality and insufficient yields. This led him into developing canopy division.

The Geneva Double Curtain, is a trellising system developed under the supervision of Dr Shaulis at the Geneva Agricultural Experiment Station, started in 1960.

His research gave him the findings that increased maturation was a result of better exposure to the sunlight. The GDC trellis also meant mechanical harvesting could be a possibility.

Canopy Management research once led by Dr N. Shaulis was taken even further to another level by Australian Dr Richard Smart, who is still seen as the leading consultant on the subject. Over the last decade advances have been huge. A lot of attention was now also given to the site, as well the vine. We now have a number of Trellising systems available to chose from, taking density, costs and harvesting methods into consideration.

Moving on almost systematically , once trellising had been established the subject of shoot positioning and pruning came into question.

Here we hear once again the name of Dr Shaulis, shoot positioning was intended for use to orientate growing shoots as not to shade any other parts of the vine to allow adequate sunlight to penetrate.

This was developed for use when training the vines using the GDC trellis and other top wire trained cordons. Towards the late 80’s this became more widespread but today it is usually only used in ares of high humidity to reduce risk of fungal disease.

Dr Richard Smart’s findings in the 80’s showed that fruit from vines with a shaded canopy have an increased level of potassium, malic acid and Ph, however sugar levels are reduced along with tartric acid and anthocyanins. Also due to the humidity bunch rot is also associated with shaded canopies.

Soil temperature and transpiration  can also be manipulated  and Professor Hofäcker’s research in 1976 showed that soil temperature effects the acidity levels in the grapes.

Dr Richard Smart, has dedicated the last few decades of his research into understanding the vine, its environment and how the best quality can be achieved within the given environment.

One of his breakthroughs was the calculation of leaf area required to produce ripe fruit. His findings led to the following conclusion, depending upon the light conditions 7-14cm² of leaf area is required per gram of ripe fruit .

Pruning is still big matter of debate amongst the wineries.

Moving on through the decades and Australia are leading the research. As with most research within a commercial industry the results and findings should lead to increased profitability. The current market trends are setting the benchmark for quality which must be met, and it is exactly this which has led to the current research taking place.

Once we understand the basic makeup of the grape, for example the primary and secondary metabolism, and that it’s the secondary metabolism which are responsible for the aroma and texture compounds, then the research into how vine management can control flavour can begin. An example of this being the secondary metabolism Methoxypyrazines, this being the popular aroma found in most Sauvignon blanc.

Levels of light exposure are believed to have an effect on the aroma compounds, such as Methoxypyrazines. Dr Kerry Wilkinson is researching the over production of this compound being associated with high vigour sites, so by reducing yields by manipulating leaf ratio the winemaker could have more control over the spectrum and level of aroma compounds found in wines.

All work is referenced, if that interest anyone let me know!!!!


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