Aims: It is well known that vine nitrogen deficiency can negatively impact on aroma in white wines. Soil nitrogen fertilization enhances aroma expression, but it also increases vine vigour and susceptibility to grey rot. The aim of this work was to investigate the impact of foliar nitrogen as well as foliar nitrogen and sulphur applications on aromatic expression, vigour and susceptibility to grey rot of Vitis vinifera L. cv. Sauvignon blanc.
Methods and results: The impact of foliar nitrogen (N) and sulphur (S) application on aromatic expression of Vitis vinifera L. cv. Sauvignon blanc has been investigated. On a plot where vine nitrogen status is naturally low and water availability not limiting, foliar nitrogen and sulphur fertilization (10 kg/ha of N and 5 kg/ha of S) increased yeast available nitrogen content. Vine vigour and maturity level of grapes were not modified compared to the control. The wines produced from N+S vines contained more volatile thiols and glutathione. These results were confirmed by a tasting of wines produced with grapes from the experimental plots. Foliar nitrogen fertilization alone (10 kg/ha of N) also increased Sauvignon blanc aromatic expression, but less so than the N + S treatment.
Conclusions: Foliar N and foliar N + S applications can enhance aromatic expression in Vitis vinifera L. cv. Sauvignon blanc wines without increasing vine vigour and infestation by grey rot.
Significance and impact of the study: Vine nitrogen deficiency can negatively impact on grape aroma potential. Soil nitrogen application can increase vine nitrogen status, but it has several drawbacks: it increases vigour and enhances Botrytis susceptibility. This study shows that foliar N and foliar N + S applications can improve vine nitrogen status and enhance aroma expression in Sauvignon blanc wines without the negative impact on vigour and Botrytis susceptibility. Although this study was carried out on Sauvignon blanc vines, it is likely that foliar N or foliar N + S applications will have similar effects on other grapevine varieties containing volatile thiols (Colombard, Riesling, Petit Manseng and Sémillon).
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