The Effect of Grape Yield and Size on Quality
The Matthews Laboratory at the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology released an interesting graphic on the effect of grape yield and berry size on quality. Conventional wisdom asserts that the smaller the berries and yields, the higher quality. But the Matthews Laboratory declared,
“It’s not the destination, but the journey that matters.”
According to the study, vineyard management techniques and physical phenomena are the true reasons for quality levels; not simply berry and yield size. The graph illustrates the “sensory or fruit attribute payoffs” that results from the “journey” that grapes take during the growing season.
For example, small berries that develop in a well-shaded environment will have less color and less tannin. Without treatment, grapes will have more color and slightly more tannin. Grapes that are grown in a water deficient vineyard will have more color and more tannin.
Low yielding vines that are grown in a water deficient environment have less veggie and more fruit flavors. Cluster thinning in this situation has no effect on the grapes’ flavor profile. What I found most interesting was that low yielding vines that are pruned will have more veggie and less fruit flavors according to the graph.
This is a bit counterintuitive as I was under the impression that there was a more or less proportional relationship between pruning and quality. The data from the Matthews Laboratory suggests this is an overly simplistic view.