As we all know, weather can be fickle. Just look at the vast extremes in California wine country over the past three years, 2016 was a drought, 2017 had massive wildfires, and 2018 was great growing and harvest conditions. We never know what the next year will bring so it is always a good idea to plan ahead and be prepared.
No matter where you live and nurture your vineyards, water will always remain a crucial part of the wine industry. Whether it is a shortage or a surplus, water management can be stressful for even the most seasoned growers. Here are 3 tips to help with water management:
It has been said one glass of wine can require as much as 28 gallons of water. That can amass to a lot of water for your vineyard. Having a plan is the first step. Locate all available water sources, or potential water sources, around your vineyard so you have a plan in place if one source dries up or fills 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 This is an easy way to assess if your vines have the proper moisture.
Audit where the water is going and have a conservation plan spelled out for all 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.
- - 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
- - store moisture from rainfall in storage tanks to use at a later date 3
- - implement a ground cover to absorb excess water and avoid erosion 4
Prepping your staff and farmstead for proper water management 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 2019 Harvest. With Paul Mueller Company stainless steel wine barrels, it's easy to grow your offerings and save money.