Published in Vineyard and Winery Management Magazine
By Melissa Hansen, Washington State Wine Commission
July – Aug 2016
The European-held wine dilution theory is so entrenched in the wine industry that many U.S. winemakers also believe it’s best not to irrigate wine grapes at all before harvest. It’s a theory not supported by science and one that can have detrimental effects on a grower’s bottom line.
The combination of no preharvest irrigation and a prolonged fruit ripening period can have negative consequences for wine grape growers, especially those in arid climates. In places like Washington State, with scant precipitation in the fall, withholding irrigation after veraison not only has potential for yield loss but, more important, may leave soils dry going into winter, a recipe for root and vine damage if cold winter temperatures hit.
Research supported by the Washington State Wine Commission and the Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research has brought science into the irrigation-dilution concept to help Washington’s wine industry keep vines healthy and avoid millions of dollars in yield losses — all while maintaining wine quality.
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