Aims: The aim of this work was to verify the influence of mechanical harvesting and postharvest treatments on wine composition.
Methods and results: Trials were carried out in triplicate on cv. Montuni grapes. The estimated best setting frequency for the mechanical harvester was 410 shakes/min. Comparing hand-picked and mechanically harvested grapes, the reduced extract and pH results were lower for the hand-picked grapes, showing a more evident berry breakage caused by the mechanical harvester. The wines obtained from mechanically harvested grapes had a lower phenolic compound content than wines produced with hand-picked grapes, indicating that oxidation phenomena occurred; the trend for postharvest treated grapes was different. The significantly lower amount of higher alcohols in the hand-picked grapes trial than in the mechanically harvested ones could be explained by a lower amount of their precursors and oxygen in musts. The sensory differences among the trials were significant for some parameters, but an overall view of the data suggested that the differences were not remarkable and all the wines were good.
Conclusion: Postharvest treatments reduce the loss of natural antioxidant compounds found in wines produced from mechanically harvested grapes. Mechanical harvesting does not have a negative influence on wine composition if matched with the proper vineyard characteristics, machine settings and postharvest treatments. The typicality of Montuni wine is maintained in the cases of grapes harvested mechanically with, but also without, any postharvest treatment. The use of these treatments is otherwise useful to obtain wines with a better stability.
Significance and impact of the study: With respect to mechanical harvesting, this study highlights the importance of maintaining and/or improving the quality of mechanically harvested grapes containing the harvesting costs.
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