The development and accumulation of secondary metabolites in grapes determine wine color, taste, and aroma. This study aimed to investigate the effect of leaf removal before flowering, a practice recently introduced to reduce cluster compactness and Botrytis rot, on anthocyanin, tannin, and methoxypyrazine concentrations in 'Merlot' grapes and wines. Leaf removal before flowering was compared with leaf removal after flowering and an untreated control. No effects on tannin and anthocyanin concentrations in grapes were observed. Both treatments reduced levels of 3-isobutyl-2-methoxypyrazine (IBMP) in the grapes and the derived wines, although the after-flowering treatment did so to a greater degree in the fruit specifically. Leaf removal before flowering can be used to reduce cluster compactness, Botrytis rot, and grape and wine IBMP concentration and to improve wine color intensity but at the expense of cluster weight and vine yield. Leaf removal after flowering accomplishes essentially the same results without loss of yield.
Keywords: Botrytis; IBMP; antioxidants; aroma; flavonoids; fruit ripening; metabolites; polyphenols.