• Wine and Climate Change: Winemaking in a New World
    Wine and Climate Change: Winemaking in a New World
    by L. J. Johnson-Bell
  • Pairing Wine and Food: A Handbook for All Cuisines
    Pairing Wine and Food: A Handbook for All Cuisines
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Home Cellar Guide Hb
    Home Cellar Guide Hb
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Quel vin pour quel plat ?
    Quel vin pour quel plat ?
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Great Wine Tours of the World
    Great Wine Tours of the World
    Barnes and Noble Books
  • The Wine Collector's Handbook
    The Wine Collector's Handbook
    by Linda Johnson
  • De juiste wijn bij het juiste gerecht
    De juiste wijn bij het juiste gerecht
    by Johnson-Bell Linda

  • Good Food, Fine Wine: A Practical Guide to Finding the Perfect Match
    Good Food, Fine Wine: A Practical Guide to Finding the Perfect Match


What is dry farming? Nothing new!

Dry farming is nothing new. It’s how European vineyards have always been farmed. When I tell a consumer that irrigation has always been illegal in the quality vineyards of France and Italy, they are shocked. Water usage and wine are not dots that consumers have ever connected or cared about.  Never mind that your glass of irrigated South African Chenin Blanc required more than 150 litres of precious freshwater to produce.  Dry Farming is not just simply “not irrigating”. There is more to it than that. There needs to be careful soil preparation so that the soils retain winter rainfall: only nine inches annually are required. We know that when we irrigate, we artificially increase the yields, decrease the wine quality, deplete and over-salinate the soils (look at Australia), and increase the plant’s vulnerability to climatic stress. This is because irrigated vines have shallow root masses whilst dry-farmed vines are forced to dig deeper to find water and nutrients – and taste – this is where “terroir” is found, by the way.

Irrigation is used primarily in the New World regions to increase yields. Period. In Napa Valley, spray irrigation systems were initially installed in the 1960s to combat winter frosts and were not really used throughout the growing season until the 1980s to coincide with the New World wine boom. The Californian wines that won the infamous Paris Tasting, were all dry farmed! There are still pockets of dry farmers in Napa, in South Africa’s Swartland, Chile, Lebanon – in fact, we know we can grow wine in the desert. More and more New World wine producers are transitioning to dry farming and letting the consumer assume that it is some new trend. It is not. It is the way in which quality wines have always been grown.

What worries me, is that now that the wine laws in Europe are loosening and irrigation is being allowed that we will see more of the Old World vineyards churning out New World yields. And perversely, as water legislation tightens and water supplies dry up in the New World, dry farming will become their norm and we will have a reversal of roles – how ironic. For there are plenty of European wine producers who would kill to be rid of the yield restrictions so that they could compete with international yields. But this is how the wine industry got into such a mess in the first place. It is time to create a level playing field- something Mother Nature seems to have already figured out.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

« THE ORGANOLEPTIC ORACLE | Main | Why am I picking on Wine? »

References (4)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>