A Balanced Vintage – Part III – Water

Water is important to all life.

Plants and animals are comprised mostly of water and can live only a very short time without it.

Drop of water on a grapeleaf.

If you feel like a slave to your lawn’s water bill each summer you know what I’m talking about.  So, have you ever wondered how “dry” farming works, or how some regions survive where they are not allowed to irrigate?

The key is in the balance, and tenacity, of the vine.  A vine wants to make grapes with juicy berries around the seeds so birds will eat them and propagate the seeds miles away.  But, if a vine has too much water, it will expend excess energy after the grapes are ripe. The result will be extra shoots and leaves, or what we call “vigorous” growth.  This cause an overly bushy vine that stops sunlight from reaching the grapes for ripening, and in many cases also causes a vegetal – or “green” taste in the grapes.

Any good bartender will tell you that watered down drinks completely change the taste, texture and concentration of a drink.  Just like your tomatoes in your garden will split if they get too plump, a fat, watered-down grape cluster will taste watered-down and are a feast for mold and mildew.

This past vintage we saw little rain, and it avoided crucial times. These crucial times are Lucas Farmer of Euclid Wine in Napa Valley“flowering”, when the grapes offer up delicate lacy flowers to the bees.  If spring rains wash away the pollen the vines are left without fruit for the vintage. Another crucial time is at the end of the summer when the grapes are large and tightly clustered when they’re particularly susceptible to mildew. Lucikly – it stayed dry through both of these phases.

If done right, the vines are left to struggle slightly and put as much energy as possible into the grapes, keeping the green leaves in check yet not watering down the grapes.

A very delicate balance… and that is just what we had this vintage.