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3 Ways Vineyards Can Prepare For Water Shortage

Even with drought conditions early in the year,  by all accounts the 2016 wine harvest was short and intense, with higher yields than 2015 and exceptional quality. As always weather can be a wine makers best friend or worst enemy and the 2016 ripening season saw cooler than average daytime highs and cold nights, perfect for "inky and complex wines" according to The Wine Institute.


Cathy Corison, owner/winemaker at Corison Winery in Napa Valley  said “2016 was early, small and delicious."  A recent Wine Institute report also stated, the overall state grape crop was estimated to be near the historical average of 3.9 million tons by the California Department of Food and Agriculture in August 2016.   

Water will always remain a crucial part of the wine industry and drought conditions can strike fear into even the most seasoned growers' heart.  Since one glass of wine can require as much as  28 gallons of water, you need to have a backup plan in the event of a water shortage.  Here are 3 ways to prepare:


1.  Plan 

 A first step is to take stock of all the available water sources around your vineyard, so you have a plan in place if one source dries up. There are several water sources on a vineyard including:

Dry Grape Field With Water TankWells - groundwater is pumped for vineyard use

Stock Ponds - “mini-reservoirs” used for water storage

Storage Tanks - can hold thousands of gallons of potable water

Wastewater Treatment Plants - to reuse water, many Northern CA wineries have implemented their own treatment plants

A typical grape vine needs 25-35 inches (635-890 millimeters) of water a year, occurring during the spring and summer months of the growing season, to avoid stress.2 



2.  Monitor

grape leaves with water transpirationYou could use a high tech tool like a pressure chamber or an infrared thermometer to take stock of your vines’ moisture or go low tech like Bryan Rahn, a Certified Professional Soil Scientist and vineyard consultant suggests: “Even feeling the grape leaves with your hands is a great diagnostic tool. When leaves are actively transpiring, they are cool to the touch,” explains Rahn. “Leaves are like little swamp coolers – evaporation has a cooling effect.” Not only are the leaves cooler, but, so is the fruit. Cooler clusters yield superior fruit quality.2




 3.  Conserve

stainless steel wine tanksAudit where the water is going and have a conservation plan spelled out for all the employees on the farm. Just small shifts in the way you do daily operations can make a big difference. When well-known winery J. Lohr went through an expansion, they implemented a water conservation plan on their farm. 

Among the suggestions:

  • implement low flow nozzles on hoses
  • install timers on the water at the barrel washing station
  • stop the constant washing down of grape skins off the concrete

2016’s early drought conditions in California cost agricultural producers in the state about $1.5 billion in lost revenue.

Prepping your staff and farmstead for a water shortage can help stop your profits from drying up.



2  T. Stevenson "The Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia" p. 15 Dorling Kindersley 2005 ISBN 0-7566-1324-8


Now is the time to be thinking about your 2018 Harvest.  With Paul Mueller Company stainless steel wine barrels, it's easy to grow your offerings and save money.

Topics: Winemaking equipment

About Paul Mueller Company Academy

Teaching and sharing ideas has long been part of the rich heritage at Paul Mueller Company. We have almost a century of quality craftsmanship guiding the way we apply new learnings. Paul Mueller Company Academy is a collection point for those learnings, so we can collaborate and grow more successful together. You will find articles, blogs, guides, infographics and more dedicated to furthering knowledge for all, in the world of stainless steel processing equipment solutions. We hope you enjoy!