The right way to put water in your wine

September 20, 2022
3-5 minutes

The best wines are produced based on a delicate chemistry involving all aspects of soil, grape variety and weather.

The whole water cycle influences the quantity and the quality of wine produced. Precipitations, infiltration, run off, irrigation, all play a role in growing the best grapes possible. Of course most of the water is at some point coming from the rain.

Climate change will be driving the evolution of the viticulture industry (like the rest of agriculture) as hotter climate and increased numbers of extreme events will drive productivity and the selection of grapes to be grown.

But on the shorter term, weather – rather than climate – with precipitations, wind, atmospheric pressure, humidity and sunlight is impacting how a grape will develop and driving daily work in vineyards.

Most of the tasks in agriculture relies on weather conditions (sowing, irrigation, harvesting, treatments against pests and diseases…). Their efficiency could be hampered by acting at the wrong time under the wrong conditions.

With the ability to anticipate near term weather conditions, vine grower can improve the way they work, how much grapes they can harvest as well as the quality of the wine produced.

Irrigation is often automated. However adapting its volume and timing according to the expected precipitation levels would contribute to water preservation. No need to add to nature’s work.

Treatments can be optimized: lower costs, better sustainability and protection. For example, copper is sprayed on leaves to avoid contamination from mildew. However its protection will disappear with rain drops. To avoid having to spray again treatments washed away by the rain a good weather forecast is necessary.

Planning can be enhanced: vine shoots can be planted and harvest done at optimum conditions. Harvesting grapes still wet from the rain can impact the yield by up to 1.5%.

Weather is providing an essential water resource but can also become a hazard.

Extreme weather events like frost, hail or heavy rain can have a devastating effect if nothing is done to protect vine shoot and grapes. In France last June, a total of 30 000 hectares of vineyards have been damaged during 10 days of hail. The most impacted saw 100% of the grapes destroyed.

Mitigating equipment or resources have to be deployed at the right time for maximum protection and efficiency.

In order to do that vineyards need precise and accurate data. Knowing exactly where and when it will rain (or freeze or hail) save time, resources and improve yield.

Meteorology provides both observations and forecasts. Observations help understanding the local climate in the long run. They also support building forecasts of what should happen in coming days or hours. Weather observations are provided either by radars or satellites or by local weather stations. The later only measure what is currently happening and are sometimes too far away to be exact. The former, on top of being extremely expensive to deploy and operate, lack speed and accuracy to address the challenge of precise forecasting. Indeed, they are limited to a resolution of 1 km and to 10-15 minutes updates.

An innovative company like HD Rain is deploying a distributed network of micro-meteorological sensors close to where people and activities are located. This network is coupled with AI and machine learning. It is therefore able to observe weather conditions in real-time, forecast up to 2 hours ahead of time with a spatial resolution of 500 meters. HD Rain’s solution drastically cut investments costs compared to satellites and radars and provides more accurate and precise data. Accessible directly via a smartphone or a computer, such a solution supports vineyard decision making process, planification and preparation. As a result, wine is enhanced in quantity and quality.

(Sources: Vitisphère, ICV)