The influence of grapevine water status on vine physiological mecanisms and vigour, as well as on berry ripening and wine characteristics, was studied during the summer of 1997 in the Nemea vine growing area (Peloponnesus, Greece). This involved three non irrigated vineyards planted with the local variety Saint-George (Agiorgitiko). These vineyards differed by their soil texture and by the presence of a water table within reach of the roots. The soil of the plot "A", located at 350 m in altitude, contained a high amount of gravel and stones between 0 and 50 cm in depth. The subsoil contained nearly 50 p. cent of clay. The plot "L" was located on a plain at 300 m in altitude. Its soil was very loamy. The plot "N" was located on a plain at 260 m in altitude. Its soil contained a high amount of clay and loam but its main caracteristic was the presence of a permanent water table within reach of the roots. Vine water status was evaluated throughout the season by measurements of leaf water potential Ψ. Additional measurements of soil water content were executed by means of a TDR moisture probe (Time Domaine Reflectometry). Water uptake of the vines showed great differences on the three plots. On the plot A, water uptake of the vines diminished brutally from June (pre-dawn Ψ= -0,2 MPa) through September (pre-dawn Ψ= -1,0 MPa); measurements of stomatal conductance in early September showed that stomata remained practically closed throughout the day. On the plot N, water was easily available to the vines throughout the summer. Pre-dawn leaf water potential remained between 0 and -0,2 MPa from June till September. Stomatal conductance, measured in early September, was high. On L, vine water status was intermediate: pre-dawn leaf water potential declined throughout the season, but not as dramatically as on A. Stomatal conductance, measured in early September, was intermediate between N and A. Water availability had a clear effect on vegetative growth. Growth slackening occured early in the season on A and late on N. On plot A, berries were smaller and showed high sugar and anthocyanin concentration and low malic acid content. Wine from A, obtained by mini-vinification (3,5 hl), was rich in alcohol, anthocyanins and tanins. On N, berries had a low sugar and anthocyanin content. Wine from grapes grown on N was poor in alcohol and polyphenolics. Berry and wine composition was intermediate on L.
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