Wine and the Water Factor

We all know that water is a precious commodity in the United States, and not just in the desert Southwest.

That’s why water will be at the top of the topic docket November 18-19, when the Sustainable Ag Expo is held in San Luis Obispo, Calif.<?p>

The Expo’s general session is entitled, “Balancing Water Resources in Expanding Communities,” and it will present wine grape growers with tools to help them not only improve but also accurately document their management of water.

That’s particularly important in California, where pressure on the water supply is motivating vintners to be more aware not only of their water usage, but also more accurate in measuring evaporation rates in the vineyards.

Can you guess how many gallons of water go into making one gallon of wine? The answer — between 6 and 7 gallons — surprised me until I took into consideration the multiple areas in which water is used in wine production.

It all begins in the vineyard, of course, and growing numbers of vintners are using technology to help with conservation — everything from soil moisture monitors to satellite imagery.

But it also extends to the cellar. J. Lohr Vineyards has been able to cut its water usage almost in half by strictly timing barrel washes (to 45 seconds) and utilizing squeegees (rather than low-pressure hoses) to clean floors.

“Competition for limited water resources is bound to heat up as the demand for water grows,” said Kris Beal, executive director of the Vineyard Team, which is presenting the Sustainable Ag Expo. “Not only do growers need to achieve the highest water use efficiency for their farms, but they need to be engaged in the long-term conversations about sustainable basin management.”

Water management isn’t just about the environment, of course. It’s also a bottom-line issue. When wineries conserve water, they control costs — costs that otherwise ultimately would be passed on to wine consumers.

Posted in Wine and the Environment
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