Phenolic compounds, extractable from grape skins and seeds, have a notable influence on the quality of red wines. Many studies have clearly demonstrated the relationship between the phenolic composition of the grape at harvest time and its influence on the phenolic composition of the red wine produced. In many previous works the evolution of phenolic composition and relative extractability was normally studied on grapes sampled at different times during ripening, but at the same date the physiological characteristics of grape berries in a vineyard are often very heterogeneous. Therefore, the main goal of the study is to investigate the differences among mechanical properties, phenolic composition and relative extractability of Vitis vinifera L. cv Barbera grape berries, harvested at the same date from several vineyards, and calibrated according to their density at three levels of soluble solids (A=235+/-8, B=252+/-8 and C=269+/-8 g L(-1) sugar) with the aim of studying the influence of ripeness stages and growing locations on these parameters. Results on mechanical properties showed that the thickness of the berry skin (Sp(sk)) was the parameter most affected by the different level of sugars in the pulp, while different skin hardnesses, evaluated by the break skin force (F(sk)), were related to the cultivation sites. The latter were also observed to influence the mechanical characteristics of seeds. Generally, the anthocyanin content increased with the level of soluble solids, while the increase in the tannin content of the berry skin and seeds was less marked. However, significant changes in flavanols reactive to vanillin in the seeds were found. The cellular maturity index (EA%) was little influenced by the soluble solids content of grapes.
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