Berry composition and climate: responses and empirical models
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Climate is a strong modulator of berry composition. Accordingly, the projected change in climate is expected to impact on the composition of berries and of the resultant wines. However, the direction and extent of climate change impact on fruit composition of winegrape cultivars are not fully known. This study utilised a climate gradient along a 700 km transect, covering all wine regions of Western Australia, to explore and empirically describe influences of climate on anthocyanins, pH and titratable acidity (TA) levels in two or three cultivars of Vitis vinifera (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Shiraz). The results showed that, at a common maturity of 22° Brix total soluble solids, berries from the warmer regions had low levels of anthocyanins and TA as well as high pH compared to berries from the cooler regions. Most of these regional variations in berry composition reflected the prevailing climatic conditions of the regions. Thus, depending on cultivar, 82–87 % of TA, 83 % of anthocyanins and about half of the pH variations across the gradient were explained by climate-variable-based empirical models. Some of the variables that were relevant in describing the variations in berry attributes included: diurnal ranges and ripening period temperature (TA), vapour pressure deficit in October and growing degree days (pH), and ripening period temperatures (anthocyanins). Further, the rates of change in these berry attributes in response to climate variables were cultivar dependent. Based on the observed patterns along the climate gradient, it is concluded that: (1) in a warming climate, all other things being equal, berry anthocyanins and TA levels will decline whereas pH levels will rise; and (2) despite variations in non-climatic factors (e.g. soil type and management) along the sampling transect, variations in TA and anthocyanins were satisfactorily described using climate-variable-based empirical models, indicating the overriding impact of climate on berry composition. The models presented here are useful tools for assessing likely changes in berry TA and anthocyanins in response to changing climate for the wine regions and cultivars covered in this study.
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