Californian vintners respond to “precious and limited” water

An increasing pressure on water supply in California is driving vintners to trial more accurate methods to measure evaporation rates from the state’s vineyards.

water-drop

The Californian wine industry uses on average 6-7 gallons of water for one gallon of wine

During a discussion on “sustainable” viticulture practices in California during the inaugural California Wine Summit from 1-4 October, both Steve Lohr and Matt Gallo stressed the challenges surrounding water use in California, before sharing their company’s responses.

“Water is precious and limited and so you have to manage it very precisely – you don’t want to under or over provide,” began Matt Gallo, head of winegrowing at Gallo Family Vineyards.

As a consequence, he said that Gallo has fitted soil moisture monitors at his company’s vineyards that send information to databases, which, in turn, schedule irrigation according to each vineyard’s needs.

Furthermore, he explained that satellite imagery is giving Gallo information on vine vigour which, when combined with soil maps, allows the company to see which plots are too vigorous and which are under performing.

Together, he said such information has allowed Gallo “to make more accurate decisions around water, pests and stress.”

Meanwhile, Steve Lohr, CEO at J Lohr Vineayrds said his business has taken several steps to conserve water in both the vineyard and the winery.

He said J Lohr currently use 3.5 gallons of water (16 litres) to produce 1 gallon of wine (4.5l) compared to an industry average of 6-7 gallons of water for one gallon of wine.

squeegee

J Lohr uses squeegees to clean winery floors rather than hoses

Halving water use at J Lohr has required a number of small changes, such as using high-pressure nozzles on winery hozes and timing barrel washes to 45 seconds, as well as using squeegees to clean floors, rather than large amounts of water from low-pressure hoses.

Then, in the vineyard, Lohr said that “pressure bombs” were vital for the more accurate measurement of a vine’s water needs.

By measuring the water pressure in the plant, these instruments can tell how stressed the vine is, and therefore the amount of water required vine by vine.

“Last year we had four inches of rainfall over the entire year, when the normal is 12-14 inches, so we don’t want to put in any more water than necessary,” said Lohr, highlighting the limited amount of rainfall in California.

He also said he was trailing a new method of measuring the evaporation from an entire vineyard using an instrument suspended above the vines which can calculate the total water loss from a 5-acre area.

Concluding he said, “There is a water crisis right now, and everyone is going to have to use sustainable practices soon because regulation is coming their way.”

5 Responses to “Californian vintners respond to “precious and limited” water”

  1. Pally Smithers says:

    Dry farm, you idots. Oh wait, that would cut down your ridiculously high yields, wouldn’t it.

  2. Michael H says:

    Pally, everyone dry farms and we all go down to two tons an acre and then proceed to go bankrupt. And that only in places that get 30 inches of rain a year. Which is almost nowhere in California wine country.

  3. It is great to see large growers such as Gallo and J. Lohr utilizing technology to achieve irrigation efficiency. Other growers must follow their lead in conserving water in their vineyards.

  4. Stella says:

    Is 3.5 gallons of water/gallon of wine just for irrigation, or does that include winery processess as well?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

We encourage debate in the comments section and always welcome feedback, but if you spot something you don't think is right, we ask that you leave an accurate email address so we can get back to you if we need to.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Supply Chain Assistant

Speciality Drinks
London NW10 7SF, UK

On-Trade Regional Sales Manager

Anthony Byrne Fine Wines
West Midlands & Northants

Supply Chain Co-ordinator

Speciality Drinks
London NW10 7SF, UK

Logistics Team Leader

Speciality Drinks
London, UK

Key Account Executive

Berkmann Wine Cellars
London, UK

Assistant Operations Manager

Speciality Drinks
London, UK

Technical Manager

North South Wines
West Drayton, UK

Key Account Manager

MMI Maldives
Maldives

TERRITORY SALES MANAGER

Eurowines Limited
Harrogate, UK

Business Manager - Impulse

Australian Vintage
Croydon, UK

Exclusive Masterclass: Chablis on Tour

London,United Kingdom
29th Apr 2019

Vinexpo Bordeaux

Bordeaux,France
13th May 2019

London Wine Fair 2019

London,United Kingdom
20th May 2019
Click to view more

The Global Grenache Masters 2019

Deadline : 26th April 2019

The Tuscan Masters 2019

Deadline : 26th April 2019

Click to view more

The Global Riesling Masters 2018

View Results

Rioja Masters 2018

View Results

Click to view more