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:
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:
Wells - 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
You 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
Audit 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
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