Leaf removal is known to enhance light exposure of clusters and therefore may affect grape composition. Owing to the risk of decreasing grape quality or sunburn as a consequence of improper sun exposure, it is crucial to determine the optimum leaf removal techniques adequate for the particular climate conditions of a vineyard area. Defoliation experiments on vine cv. Regent were conducted in two consecutive years (2014 and 2015). The effect of leaf removal treatment on the qualitative and quantitative composition of the polyphenol compounds in the grapes, with reference to the basic weather conditions of the vineyard area, located in Szczecin in the North-Western part of Poland, was assessed. Defoliation was performed manually in the cluster zone at three phenological plant stages: pre-flowering, berry-set and véraison. Leaf removal, especially early defoliation (pre-flowering), enhanced total polyphenol content, including the amount of anthocyanins, flavonols and flavan-3-ols and furthermore, it increased the amount of soluble solids, decreasing the titratable acidity in grapes. On the other hand, the treatments had a reducing impact on the phenolic acids in berries. Defoliation at earlier stages of cluster development appears to be an efficient strategy for improving berry quality in cool climate areas, however, additionally further weather data control is required to determine the effects on berry components.
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