Changes to regulations by Food Standards Australia New Zealand have permitted the adjustment of must sugar levels with the addition of water in order to ensure a sound fermentation progress as well as mitigating excessive wine–alcohol levels. This study assessed the implications for Shiraz wine quality following a pre-fermentative must dilution (changing liquid-to-solid ratios), in comparison to juice substitution with water (constant liquid-to-solid ratios) that has previously been deemed a promising way to adjust wine–alcohol levels. While working within the legal limit of water addition to grape must, the effects of both approaches on wine quality parameters and sensory characteristics were rather similar, and of negligible nature. However, different implications between substitution and dilution appeared to be driven by grape maturity, and dilution was found to have a greater impact than substitution on some parameters at higher water implementation rates. In line with previous observations, longer hang-time followed by alcohol adjustments via pre-fermentation water addition were of limited merit compared to simply picking grapes earlier. This work provided further knowledge that supports informed decision making regarding the recently permitted approach of using water during winemaking.
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