Vineyard irrigation is becoming a priority for the Côtes-du-Rhône

Friday February 05 2021 by Vitisphere

 Due to recurrent water stress, “it will take 10 years for new plantings to become established, compared with 4 to 5 years in the past”, claims Denis Guthmuller. Due to recurrent water stress, “it will take 10 years for new plantings to become established, compared with 4 to 5 years in the past”, claims Denis Guthmuller. - Photo credit : Syndicat Général des Vignerons des Côtes du Rhône

Faced with the “recurring problem of securing income”, solutions involve enhancing the price of the wines and better yields, claimed Denis Guthmuller, the new chairman of the Côtes du Rhône winegrowers’ organisation, on January 27 during a video press conference. To support sales of AOC Côtes-du-Rhône and Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, the organisation has its sights clearly set on ensuring 70% of its vineyards are certified organic and/or High Environmental Value/HVE by 2025. To reach production potential, Guthmuller is prioritising access to water.

As an organic winegrower, he claims there is a growing need for water. Summer droughts have become recurrent and are having an impact on wine yields, with climate change jeopardising sustainability at farm level. Just a few years ago, “my father-in-law used to say that we’d have a storm on July 14 and one on August 15. Natural irrigation came automatically. It has now become clear that rainfall comes later, often after 15 September”, said Guthmuller.

When a shortfall in water lasts potentially from June 15 to September 15, older vines can withstand it but the younger vines are put under considerable pressure. To resolve the drought issue, the industry is keeping a close, and expectant eye on regional irrigation projects.  As water is a collective resource, its users must be able to prove that as common property it is being put to good use, warned Guthmuller. He feels that “at the moment we use irrigation in a way that is too empirical. We need a strategy that varies depending on vineyard sites”.

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