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In the Winery Status quo is not sustainable

The wine industry values the image of traditional practices yet requires the rapid adoption of new technology for survival. By Gary Strachan


here are a lot of platitudes in business. “You must keep running

just to stay in one place.” “Early to bed, early to rise.” “Keep your nose to the grindstone.” You can probably add dozens more.

We live in a world of rapid change. I recall a time when my business telephone bill used to be close to $1000 per month and the latest technology was a $2000 answering machine. My bill used to be accompanied by a 500-gram stack of punched cards that listed long-distance calls. The lineman who installed phones used to live just down the road from me and would drop the package off on his way home. I understand that it has been an expensive and stressful transition from that level of technology to modern telephone networks, especially for the hundreds of small telephone companies who disappeared, but I don’t miss it. What are you doing now that will soon be obsolete? The wine industry values the image of traditional practices yet requires the rapid adoption of new technology for survival. Many wine regions are running short of water and must optimize the use of this increasingly scarce resource. The widespread adoption of drip irrigation and regulated deficit irrigation has enabled water use to decline to a fraction of former use without handicapping yield and quality.

Whether you believe in climate change or not, the reality is that we have recently set records for the length of frost-free season and high summer temperatures. This has affected grape composition and wine style. In a cool climate wine region, the development of varietal character depends on several weeks of cool weather before harvest to induce the production of secondary metabolites. If the acidity drops and the sugar content rises before fall temperatures occur, it may be difficult to produce the former cool climate style of wine. The status quo will not maintain your wine style. What are the options to maintain wine style? In Spain, some wineries are purchasing property further north in the Pyrenees Mountains. Champagne producers are purchasing land in England. Moving a vineyard is a major decision but there are less expensive options. Within limits, an increased crop load can delay ripening. Care must taken to prevent excessive shading within the canopy or impede air

30 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2016

movement. Another possibility is to change to grape varieties that require a longer season to ripen. It’s a good practice to maintain a small experimental block of potential replacement varieties for your site. Watch their performance. There may be a variety among them that is better suited to your site than the grapes you now grow. Every site has the potential to grow some grape really well.

The public is fickle. Yesterday’s hot trend may be today’s boredom. The time to plan for the next trend is while you’re

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