Main content area

Changes in soil water availability in vineyards can be traced by the carbon and nitrogen isotope composition of dried wines

Spangenberg, Jorge E., Zufferey, Vivian
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.635 pp. 178-187
Vitis vinifera, carbon, climatic factors, edible fruits, freeze drying, fruit composition, grapes, growing season, irrigation water, leaf water potential, nitrogen, nitrogen content, nitrogen metabolism, nutrients, plant available water, rain, red wines, soil water content, soil water deficit, soil water regimes, soil water retention, stable isotopes, sugars, vineyards, water shortages, wine cultivars, winemaking
The grapevine is one of the most important edible fruit plants cultivated worldwide, and it is highly sensitive to changes in the soil water content. We studied the total carbon and nitrogen contents and stable isotope compositions (C/NWSR, δ13CWSR and δ15NWSR values) of the solid residues obtained by freeze-drying wines produced from two white grapevine cultivars (Vitis vinifera L. cv Chasselas and Petite Arvine) field grown under different soil water regimes while maintaining other climatic and ecopedological conditions identical. These experiments simulated the more frequent and extended climate change-induced periods of soil water shortage. The wines were from the 2009–2014 vintages, produced using the same vinification procedure. The plant water status, reflecting soil water availability, was assessed by the predawn leaf water potential (Ψpd), monitored in the field during the growing seasons. For both wine varieties, the δ13CWSR values are highly correlated with Ψpd values and record the soil water availability set by soil water holding capacity, rainfall and irrigation water supply. These relationships were the same as those observed for the carbon isotope composition of fruit sugars (i.e., must sugars) and plant water status. In Chasselas wines, the nitrogen content and δ15NWSR values decreased with soil water deficit, indicating control of the flux of soil-water soluble nutrients into plants by soil water availability. Such a correlation was not found for Petite Arvine, probably due to different N-metabolism processes in this genetically atypical cultivar. The results presented in this study confirm and generalize what was previously found for red wine (Pinot noir); the carbon isotope composition of wine solid residues is a reliable indicator of the soil and the plant water status and thus can be used to trace back local climatic conditions in the vineyard's region. In most wines (except Petite Arvine) the C/NWSR and δ15NWSR values are indicators of the origin of the nitrogen supplied to the plant's fruit (grape) that can be used to assess the N dynamics in the soil-water-plant system.