Grapevines are hardy plants and they require very little water to survive.
Most vineyards in Australia are irrigated as this produces a higher and more consistent yield of grapes.
At Anderson Winery we have made a conscious decision to not irrigate our vines. This means we get a much lower yield, but the grapes have much more intense flavour and colour (essentially, they have less water in them).
The vineyard site & practices have to be right to do this well.
- The soil should have good water holding capacity (particularly in a relatively dry climate such as Rutherglen). Light, sandy soils dry out very quickly and if there is not regular rainfall the vines will become stressed very quickly. Our soil is clay dispersed with gravel & stones, so it holds water quite well.
- Winter pruning is critical in determining how much the vine will grow in the Spring. If too many buds are left and there is a wet Spring, the vine will grow vigorously and be at risk of having too much canopy & fruit to sustain over a dry summer. In this case the vine will not be able to ripen the grapes properly. Shoot thinning helps, but the vine has already expended that energy on growing an unwanted shoot, rather than on ripening the grapes.