Vol. 2 No. 6 Water Into Wine

Oh, great…now TB thinks he’s Jesus! Not quite, but water of course is a key ingredient of wine and the purity of the water supply matters too. In fact, everything that come in contact with the grapes has an effect on the finished profit, be it for the better, or worse.

In some areas, there is enough rainfall that once the vines have taken root, they can go to ‘dry farming’. If possible, it is the best for several reasons. First, the vines learn to fight for the water and push their roots down deeper. During a drought in 1981, famed winemaker Joe Heitz told me that a drought is good because without it, readily available sources of water keep the roots shallow. Hillside vineyards benefit the most  since the water runs off whereas those on the valley floor have much more water and thus are not stressed – the reason the best wines come from hillsides with sandy, loamy, or even rocky soil which keeps the soil from clumping, as clay does.

In areas like California’s Central Coast where the average rainfall is perhaps 7-8 inches a year, irrigation is a must but that problem has largely been mitigated with the use of drip irrigation systems. At a recent wine symposium, even Fred Franzia, producer of Charles Shaw (aka Two Buck Chuck) was stressing the need for this to conserve water. This brings us to the ‘water into wine’ subject.

First, TB did some research and found that to produce a one liter bottle of  water requires 1.39 liters of water…and that does not include the water required to make the bottle! Shockingly, 50 BILLION bottles of water are drunk and either recycled or simply thrown away each year! That means 69.5 billion liters of water – when many if not most of us could be drinking it from the tap and unless contaminated, be getting minerals with the H2O. This and the other figures cited here are from a report by the International Bottled Water Association

How about a liter bottle of soda? 2.02 liters and it is anybodies guess how many bottles of those are drunk each year. A liter of wine requires 4.74 liters…so the 1 billion 750ml bottles of Two Buck Chuck alone required 6.32 billion liters of water….much of it from the San Joaquin Aquifer, the second largest in the country…in volume, but since the drought (longest in 600 years!), it has been largely depleted and an increase in arsenic and other levels and with land sinking.

Beer is lower…4 liters…but look what happens with grain alcohol:34.55 liters!!!

Now add in packaging (plastic bottles, etc.) and it can be 6-7 time the amounts shown above. Especially when you include cleaning the equipment which requires a lot of water.

I was talking to a friend who bought a place down at Palm Springs and asked if he was concerned about all those golf courses sapping the water supply and turning it back into a desert? He said that they are using wastewater recovery systems which wineries are also shifting towards. Consider that Franzia’s Bronco Wines owns 40,000 acres of vineyards in California making them far and away the largest, and thus, largest consumer of water. Wine Economist – Sustainability describes one of the wastewater recapture systems that is reportedly removes 99% of the contaminants.

All of the above is shocking to TB…off to grab a glass of wine!

TB

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