Historically, grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) leaf characterisation has been a driving force in the identification of cultivars. In this study, ampelometric (foliometric) analysis was done on leaf samples collected from hand-pruned, mechanically pruned and minimally pruned ‘Sauvignon blanc’ and ‘Syrah’ vines to estimate the impact of within-vineyard variability and a change in bud load on the stability of leaf properties. The results showed that within-vineyard variability of ampelometric characteristics was high within a cultivar, irrespective of bud load. In terms of the O.I.V. coding system, zero to four class differences were observed between minimum and maximum values of each characteristic.
The value of variability of each characteristic was different between the three levels of bud load and the two cultivars. With respect to bud load, the number of shoots per vine had a significant effect on the characteristics of the leaf laminae. Single leaf area and lengths of veins changed significantly for both cultivars, irrespective of treatment, while angle between veins proved to be a stable characteristic. A large number of biometric data can be recorded on a single leaf; the data measured on several leaves, however, are not necessarily unique for a specific cultivar. The leaf characteristics analysed in this study can be divided into two groups according to the response to a change in bud load, i.e. stable (angles between the veins, depths of sinuses) and variable (length of the veins, length of the petiole, single leaf area). The variable characteristics are not recommended to be used in cultivar identification, unless the pruning method/bud load is known.