"If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

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T. Altmayer
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#51 Post by T. Altmayer »

D@vid Bu3ker wrote: March 30th, 2021, 5:10 pm
OK, going to stir the pot myself...if a region does not get enough rain to grow a crop, is the “terroir” really worthy of that crop?

It’s not just grapes. Look at the almonds that suck up so much water in California. It’s complete BS.
I assume you do not eat most fruits and vegetables because they are largely irrigated. More importantly, the world would starve without irrigation. But let's just concern ourselves with authenticity.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#52 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

T. Altmayer wrote: March 31st, 2021, 9:41 am
D@vid Bu3ker wrote: March 30th, 2021, 5:10 pm
OK, going to stir the pot myself...if a region does not get enough rain to grow a crop, is the “terroir” really worthy of that crop?

It’s not just grapes. Look at the almonds that suck up so much water in California. It’s complete BS.
I assume you do not eat most fruits and vegetables because they are largely irrigated. More importantly, the world would starve without irrigation. But let's just concern ourselves with authenticity.
I am only speaking of it as the "terroir" issue. Though I do think the almonds are stupid. What a boring nut.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#53 Post by Tom G l a s g o w »

ChrisJames wrote: March 30th, 2021, 7:23 pm
Phil T r o t t e r wrote: March 30th, 2021, 7:10 pm
Marshall Manning wrote: March 30th, 2021, 7:05 pm But if wine grapes wouldn't grow there naturally is it really the best place to make wine?
I live in Canada. During winter. Electric heating. Maybe humans shouldn't live there.
[snort.gif]
Don't tell the aborigines that. They seem to have done just fine for thousands of years.
How was the wine back in the hunter/gather days?

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#54 Post by James Sanders »

Take a plot with consistent characteristics in an area that gets sufficient rain. Plant vines. Irrigate half. Dry farm the other. Continue for 20 years. Does anyone seriously think that after 20 years the grapes from the irrigated half will be the same as the dry farmed? Likewise, does anyone seriously think the grapes from the irrigated half will be more reflective of the location?

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#55 Post by Tim Heaton »

Thanks for posting this, it's discussion worthy, at least.

I've been here, did a single-blind tasting, met the brothers during harvest, seen their vineyards, purchased and enjoyed their wines for a several decades now, etc. That said, I put this (quote?) into the category of "believe half of what you see and none of what you hear". Such is this, the age of social media, with a dash of ideology thrown in for good measure.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#56 Post by Taylor Broussard »

James Sanders wrote: March 31st, 2021, 10:19 am Take a plot with consistent characteristics in an area that gets sufficient rain. Plant vines. Irrigate half. Dry farm the other. Continue for 20 years. Does anyone seriously think that after 20 years the grapes from the irrigated half will be the same as the dry farmed? Likewise, does anyone seriously think the grapes from the irrigated half will be more reflective of the location?
We don't have to muse about this...there's first hand experience at Tablas Creek! https://tablascreek.typepad.com/tablas/dry-farming/. They've been transitioning over time to being completely dry-farmed for a variety of reasons, but the quality differences are certainly real. Many new blocks are planted without irrigation infrastructure at all. Personally I think their En Gobelet (completely dry-farmed, head pruned) has consistently been one of their best wine since I first had it in 2009.

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#57 Post by Arv R »

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#58 Post by Anton D »

James Sanders wrote: March 31st, 2021, 10:19 am Take a plot with consistent characteristics in an area that gets sufficient rain. Plant vines. Irrigate half. Dry farm the other. Continue for 20 years. Does anyone seriously think that after 20 years the grapes from the irrigated half will be the same as the dry farmed? Likewise, does anyone seriously think the grapes from the irrigated half will be more reflective of the location?
If it gets sufficient rain, then the irrigated vineyard would be over-watered. Yes?

Conversely, if we take a plot of land with insufficient rain and did the same comparison, we'd also see differences...or maybe, not....the dry side might be barren at your 20 year mark.

I'm leaving this up to the winemakers.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#59 Post by ChrisJames »

Tom G l a s g o w wrote: March 31st, 2021, 10:06 am
ChrisJames wrote: March 30th, 2021, 7:23 pm
Phil T r o t t e r wrote: March 30th, 2021, 7:10 pm
I live in Canada. During winter. Electric heating. Maybe humans shouldn't live there.
[snort.gif]
Don't tell the aborigines that. They seem to have done just fine for thousands of years.
How was the wine back in the hunter/gather days?
No idea as I've never tried it. I've also never lived a traditional Inuit lifestyle. I merely reminded the previous poster that humans have lived quite successfully in Canada during the winter without electric heating. Nothing more than that. I made no reference to wine.

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#60 Post by larry schaffer »

Tim Heaton wrote: March 31st, 2021, 10:28 am Thanks for posting this, it's discussion worthy, at least.

I've been here, did a single-blind tasting, met the brothers during harvest, seen their vineyards, purchased and enjoyed their wines for a several decades now, etc. That said, I put this (quote?) into the category of "believe half of what you see and none of what you hear". Such is this, the age of social media, with a dash of ideology thrown in for good measure.
Thank you.

A couple of things:

Many almond farmers have switched over to drip irrigation, reducing their water usage tremendously. But no one wants to hear that.

The Tablas comments are interesting - but Taylor, it is not apples to apples anymore. You have to consider vintage variation, age of vine, etc

There are simply too many variables to come into play here to simplify this discussion - and as Tim stated, ideology certainly comes into play. Might be there be differences? Of course - but no one should ASSUME there are and that's what's happening here in many of the comments. There are so many factors that put a veil on 'terroir' - it really is a clusterf$*k discussion to have most of the time . . .

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#61 Post by ChrisJames »

This thread reminds me of the Old Vine thread. I am not a winemaker, I don't have any scientific background related to soil/grape growing, etc, and I have not been trained as a sommelier. Some of my favorite winemakers (who happen to participate on this board) are widely praised for their wines both on this board and in the press. In my opinion, they are also highly intelligent, insightful, and knowledgeable. When they say "old vines make better wines than young vines" and "non-irrigated vines better reflect terroir and make better wines than irrigated vines," that is good enough for me. Maybe I am just a "believe the experts" kind of guy, but there is also a reason they are my favorite winemakers. But then I see all these posts by people who don't seem to be making fantastic wines that I know of arguing against the superiority of old vines and dry farming. I don't get it. [shrug.gif]
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#62 Post by Jonathan Loesberg »

Chateauneuf du Pape AOC regulations do not allow irrigation except in the case of very young vines prior to production. I have always heard that they want to produce vines with long roots that burrow down to the water table. In any case, Brunier was literally correct. If you irrigate, according to the AOC rules, it can't be marked as coming from that terroir.

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#63 Post by Bruce G. »

"If you irrigate it's not terroir. If you irrigate it's a piece of land where you grow something."

Well, this is obviously part of Brunier's take on terroir, and it's fine as far as that goes.
I don't think anyone should be surprised that thoughts on terroir vary from person to person.
From my perspective the position seems absolutist.
I look at the expression of terroir as a spectrum, along a More/Less axis. On that axis I don't think it hard to understand that most people would see irrigation of a vineyard to move away from "More". But is the simple act of irrigation alone enough to push the process over some imaginary line from Terroir territory into Non-Terroir territory?
Brunier seems to think it is. To my mind, I don't even see the need to draw a line as the presence of a line would be reductive and counter-productive to discussion and understanding.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#64 Post by Eric Ifune »

How about composting? Even biodynamic producers add compost. Isn't this adding to the "terroir?"

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#65 Post by Thomas DeBiase »

Alan Rath wrote: March 30th, 2021, 4:57 pm “If it rains during the growing season, it’s not terroir”
I would argue the opposite... that is terroir. That's what the site and the climate provide.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#66 Post by Taylor Broussard »

larry schaffer wrote: March 31st, 2021, 11:39 am The Tablas comments are interesting - but Taylor, it is not apples to apples anymore. You have to consider vintage variation, age of vine, etc
No doubt - but I've tasted every vintage of Tablas since 2009 and this has been consistently been the case for me. Perhaps I'm primed to think so because of what I know about the property...and they've always blended some portion of Tannat into the wine, but there has always been underlying structure and density that is unique to that bottling.

Nonetheless, people come to wine for different reasons and intentions. I completely understand why those who drink or make wine for pleasure are disinterested or dismissive of some of these fanciful arguments about terroir. (and I'm not pointing that statement at anyone here - just speaking globally). But there are those who are interested in wine analytically, or even to participate in a larger culture and history of a place, that these debates are really meaningful. I completely understand why a statement that posits that irrigation invalidates terroir, because in some ways it can also invalidate the people who make wines from irrigated plots or those who enjoy them - and that feels deeply personal.

But thinking critically it's somewhat hard to disagree that it does invalidate (or limit) terroir (whatever value it may have). If great wine could be developed through vines raised in a hydroponic system grown with the assistance of grow lights... would it have terroir? I would think that some here who simply drink wine for pleasure, might not have any qualms if the price were right. Just like many of us who eat food from irrigated fields. But those, like myself, who enjoy the direct pleasure of wine, but also are interested in it for many others reasons would struggle to even conceive of buying and drinking such a thing. So while irrigation might be a very tiny incremental step towards this hypothetical - it still feels like a step away from the "ideal".

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#67 Post by Taylor Broussard »

Eric Ifune wrote: March 31st, 2021, 4:43 pm How about composting? Even biodynamic producers add compost. Isn't this adding to the "terroir?"
Definitely depends on your perspective. I think many of those who farm biodynamic would argue that any inputs like compost being added artificially are due to an effort to remediate past conventional farming. However the use of flocks and livestock to naturally compost is most definitely a thing - and these are often animals raised within the locality of the vineyard (and therefore part of the terroir itself).

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#68 Post by Ben M a n d l e r »

It’s not terroir unless the vines are own-rooted.

If an argument is to be made about the relationship between how a vine’s roots interact with their surroundings then surely what those roots are is just as important. And ecology and environment are inextricably linked. If one says (as people, amazingly, do) that a vine shouldn’t have to rely on human intervention for it to fully realize its terroir then that means no grafting, no sprays, no tilled-in cover crop, no trellising. Blah blah ad nauseam.

I personally do think that dry farming is important. I just find myself disliking a lot (not all) of the people who share that belief, and shaking my head at some of the pseudoscientific arguments used in favor of it. And I also think that if a generally dry farmed vineyard needs occasional irrigation to ensure its continued existence then that shouldn’t be a strike against it.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#69 Post by James Billy »

Dry farming may produce better wine due to the inherent low yields, but we're talking about terroir, not quality.

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#70 Post by James Billy »

ChrisJames wrote: March 31st, 2021, 12:47 pm This thread reminds me of the Old Vine thread. I am not a winemaker, I don't have any scientific background related to soil/grape growing, etc, and I have not been trained as a sommelier. Some of my favorite winemakers (who happen to participate on this board) are widely praised for their wines both on this board and in the press. In my opinion, they are also highly intelligent, insightful, and knowledgeable. When they say "old vines make better wines than young vines" and "non-irrigated vines better reflect terroir and make better wines than irrigated vines," that is good enough for me. Maybe I am just a "believe the experts" kind of guy, but there is also a reason they are my favorite winemakers. But then I see all these posts by people who don't seem to be making fantastic wines that I know of arguing against the superiority of old vines and dry farming. I don't get it. [shrug.gif]
Trusting experts is of course a good thing as we've learnt over the last few years especially, but reasoned debate by knowledgeable laymen isn't a bad thing. It's only a problem when the uninformed have trenchant views which they argue for and refuse to listen to alternative views.

Much of French AOP law is based on traditional. Change comes very slowly. I'm sure there are many winemakers around the world who would disagree with the premise of this thread. Who are the real experts?

And of course there are financial reasons to dismiss practices that others are using.

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#71 Post by Bruce G. »

Taylor Broussard wrote: March 31st, 2021, 5:07 pm Definitely depends on your perspective. I think many of those who farm biodynamic would argue that any inputs like compost being added artificially are due to an effort to remediate past conventional farming. However the use of flocks and livestock to naturally compost is most definitely a thing - and these are often animals raised within the locality of the vineyard (and therefore part of the terroir itself).
Producing organic composts on site is recommendable in so many ways.
But putting livestock on the farm and using their manure to compost the vineyard is also a remedial action.

Almost any kind of dedicated farming will probably lead over time to a degredation of site, even when farmed in the most gentle of ways.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#72 Post by Taylor Broussard »

James Billy wrote: March 31st, 2021, 5:49 pm Dry farming may produce better wine due to the inherent low yields, but we're talking about terroir, not quality.
This may seem counter intuitive to most, but in California and other hot climates, yield per vine is likely to be higher in dry farmed scenarios (especially on head pruned or bush vine farming) due to greater spacing. I would think that yield per vine is much lower for irrigated plots, with density of vine per acre being much, much higher.

So I don’t think the terroir / quality / concentration explanation are fully connected.

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#73 Post by Wes Barton »

Thomas DeBiase wrote: March 31st, 2021, 4:45 pm
Alan Rath wrote: March 30th, 2021, 4:57 pm “If it rains during the growing season, it’s not terroir”
I would argue the opposite... that is terroir. That's what the site and the climate provide.
It's nurturing the soil biome, which can only help. It's part of rolling back from monoculture. It's moving towards a more seemingly natural ecosystem under the vines (and shouldn't be the only measure).
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#74 Post by Wes Barton »

James Billy wrote: March 31st, 2021, 5:49 pm Dry farming may produce better wine due to the inherent low yields, but we're talking about terroir, not quality.
It's an ideal. Possible to approximate. Dwarfed in importance in relation to countless other factors.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#75 Post by James Billy »

Taylor Broussard wrote: March 31st, 2021, 6:09 pm
James Billy wrote: March 31st, 2021, 5:49 pm Dry farming may produce better wine due to the inherent low yields, but we're talking about terroir, not quality.
This may seem counter intuitive to most, but in California and other hot climates, yield per vine is likely to be higher in dry farmed scenarios (especially on head pruned or bush vine farming) due to greater spacing. I would think that yield per vine is much lower for irrigated plots, with density of vine per acre being much, much higher.

So I don’t think the terroir / quality / concentration explanation are fully connected.
I mean yield per plant, not per area. All other things need to be the same to see what difference irrigation makes. Pruning, too.

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#76 Post by Jim Anderson »

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#77 Post by Marshall Manning »

Jim Anderson wrote: March 31st, 2021, 6:30 pmOMFG
I'd love to hear your thoughts, Jim. PGC belongs to the Deep Roots Coalition. I'm guessing that's not just a marketing ploy champagne.gif .
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#78 Post by Jim Anderson »

Marshall Manning wrote: March 31st, 2021, 6:41 pm
Jim Anderson wrote: March 31st, 2021, 6:30 pmOMFG
I'd love to hear your thoughts, Jim. PGC belongs to the Deep Roots Coalition. I'm guessing that's not just a marketing ploy champagne.gif .
Funny. As you posted this I was replying to an email about this thread and responding as to why I can’t and won’t get into things here.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#79 Post by ChrisJames »

James Billy wrote: March 31st, 2021, 5:59 pm
ChrisJames wrote: March 31st, 2021, 12:47 pm This thread reminds me of the Old Vine thread. I am not a winemaker, I don't have any scientific background related to soil/grape growing, etc, and I have not been trained as a sommelier. Some of my favorite winemakers (who happen to participate on this board) are widely praised for their wines both on this board and in the press. In my opinion, they are also highly intelligent, insightful, and knowledgeable. When they say "old vines make better wines than young vines" and "non-irrigated vines better reflect terroir and make better wines than irrigated vines," that is good enough for me. Maybe I am just a "believe the experts" kind of guy, but there is also a reason they are my favorite winemakers. But then I see all these posts by people who don't seem to be making fantastic wines that I know of arguing against the superiority of old vines and dry farming. I don't get it. [shrug.gif]
Trusting experts is of course a good thing as we've learnt over the last few years especially, but reasoned debate by knowledgeable laymen isn't a bad thing. It's only a problem when the uninformed have trenchant views which they argue for and refuse to listen to alternative views.

Much of French AOP law is based on traditional. Change comes very slowly. I'm sure there are many winemakers around the world who would disagree with the premise of this thread. Who are the real experts?

And of course there are financial reasons to dismiss practices that others are using.
Who are the real experts? Unlike the talkers, I'd say the experts are the ones who actually walk the walk and have their livelihoods at stake, in particular the ones in the US who are pursuing dry farming out of empirical based beliefs rather than AOC laws. They are the ones with skin in the game, and the ones I know sure the hell didn't choose dry farming for financial reasons. They have earned my full respect for their years of commitment and tangible results. Without those, it's just noise.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#80 Post by RichardFlack »

I think irrigation can be part of a terroir; it’s just not the original terroir. As long as that’s clearly understood I don’t see any problem.
I think this rather a contrived question.

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#81 Post by Rodrigo B »

Seems to me like people are often trying to answer different questions when discussing with each other. As I see it, there’s fundamentally three different questions being discussed:

1) Can irrigated vines produce wines with a sense of place or does irrigation completely eliminate terroir?

2) Do dry farmed vines produce better wines than irrigated vines?

3) Do dry farmed vines produce wines with a clearer sense of place than irrigated vines do?

While the Q1 is my reading of original question posed, more often than not it appears people were really trying to answer Q2 and Q3. Which are all valid derivatives and worthy of discussion, but I do think it's important to distinguish between those questions.

I’ve already noted my position on Q1 earlier in the thread, as for Q2 and Q3, that’s something I don’t find myself qualified to answer so I defer to winemakers and other more knowledgeable people on the matter. But the consensus by many does seem to be that dry farming often does produce better wines with a clearer sense of place.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#82 Post by Al Osterheld »

I think too much irrigation is surely not good, but don't think too much rain is good, either (although it may be part of not great terroir). If you get 40+ inches of rain per year, depending on the frequency of rains and the soils it doesn't necessarily lead to deeper roots.

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#83 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

Jon Drummond wrote: March 30th, 2021, 5:13 pm Pretty silly comment.

If anything:
-If you chaptalise (adds alcohol with sugar not from the vineyard), it's not terroir.
-If you use reverse osmosis (changes the result given from the vineyard), it's not terroir.
-If you use any new oak (adds flavour from a tree not from the vineyard), it's not terroir.

Irrigation actually appears to be the most terroir-neutral process here. Most of the vegetables and fruits we eat need irrigation, they don't get lots of sugar or oak added to them.
I don’t agree with you at all.

Cellar adds, including water, are generally very controlled and specific adds.

Irrigation is often done as a prophylactic, and is definitely done more more often based upon a need to feel like one is a “good farmer” than on whether it truly needs to be done. Very few winemakers actually feel like they are doing a better job by chaptalizing.

Irrigation also allows the plants to grow larger leaves, leading to more sugar accumulation in the fruit(photosynthsis) and bigger wines. It’s a long way from neutral in impact.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#84 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

RichardFlack wrote: March 31st, 2021, 7:48 pm I think irrigation can be part of a terroir; it’s just not the original terroir. As long as that’s clearly understood I don’t see any problem.
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Terroir, IMO, is everything that contributes to the sense of place. And irrigation makes a big impact.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#85 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

Rodrigo B wrote: March 31st, 2021, 7:57 pm Seems to me like people are often trying to answer different questions when discussing with each other. As I see it, there’s fundamentally three different questions being discussed:

1) Can irrigated vines produce wines with a sense of place or does irrigation completely eliminate terroir?

2) Do dry farmed vines produce better wines than irrigated vines?

3) Do dry farmed vines produce wines with a clearer sense of place than irrigated vines do?

While the Q1 is my reading of original question posed, more often than not it appears people were really trying to answer Q2 and Q3. Which are all valid derivatives and worthy of discussion, but I do think it's important to distinguish between those questions.

I’ve already noted my position on Q1 earlier in the thread, as for Q2 and Q3, that’s something I don’t find myself qualified to answer so I defer to winemakers and other more knowledgeable people on the matter. But the consensus by many does seem to be that dry farming often does produce better wines with a clearer sense of place.
No shocker, but I am in the camp that dry farmed wines show a unique sense of place better. Irrigated vines have terroir but it’s not as individual an expression as dry farmed(even if the irrigated vines have a wide appeal).

Tastes better is subjective.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#86 Post by Eric Lundblad »

D@vid Bu3ker wrote: March 30th, 2021, 5:10 pm
jtfriedman wrote: March 30th, 2021, 5:03 pm I wonder if this in the context of winemakers that have the option to irrigate or not. In that case, I understand.

But in the case of producers from Ribera del Duero, for example, where irrigation is generally necessary? I can't really see Brunier shitting on that. If he is, then boo. French gatekeeping merde.
OK, going to stir the pot myself...if a region does not get enough rain to grow a crop, is the “terroir” really worthy of that crop?

It’s not just grapes. Look at the almonds that suck up so much water in California. It’s complete BS.
Actually, almonds aren't the water issue they're cracked up to be.

My dad grew up on a farm in the central CA valley. We grew up in El Cerrito (SF East Bay), where my Dad was a Biochemist (blood proteins mostly). But, he kept/got ownership/control of the farm he grew up on, and farmed it remotely (with some of my help, he said I was a help at the time tho I wonder how much in retrospect!).

Almonds are a fairly profitable crop, esp compared to row crops...which is mostly what we grew (except for a small section of Walnuts). It all depends on the fertility of the dirt...it needs to be high for Almonds and such. Kidney beans aren't so demanding. From the small vegetable/etc market (Monterrey Market in Berkeley), my Dad discovered that, at the time, all of the beans for bean sprouts at the time, a 'few' years ago, were imported from China (and similar). My dad was the first in Ca, at the time at least, to grow those beans, and sold them to someone local that sprouted them and sold them to the Monterrey Market et al.

Anyways, Almonds are a very profitable crop compared to growing beans and such. So the farming regulations are different, to 'even' things out a bit. For example, in most areas, Almonds aren't allowed to use drip irrigation, and have to use flood irrigation instead. Drip is more efficient and allows a much higher density of planting of trees...but with flood irrigation, the majority of the flood irrigation water replenishes the aquafer, aquafer health being a significant issue.
Last edited by Eric Lundblad on April 1st, 2021, 10:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#87 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Thanks for the detailed info Eric.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#88 Post by Mel Knox »

What I love here is that we take an invented quality like terroir and then argue over how it is achieved.

People don't like thinking of wine as a manufactured product, just like garlic almonds or Grand Marnier. So we act as tho the grapes jumped into the vat and fermented themselves.

I used to see funny postcards in Beaune showing bottles growing on the vine.

The irrigation argument is used wherever it rains a lot.

This reminds of of visiting DRC with Zelma Long. Andre Noblet said that the water had to come from the skies. Zelma --a native Oregonian--asked him how the vine knew where the water came from.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#89 Post by Eric Ifune »

It's nurturing the soil biome, which can only help. It's part of rolling back from monoculture. It's moving towards a more seemingly natural ecosystem under the vines (and shouldn't be the only measure).
The soil biome is incredibly important. We're only just learning about it, much as we are only now learning about the human body biome and how it effects health. Those vineyards I admire most have great biodiversity. Not those monoculture ones as occurs in the most famous vineyards in France. They need to use biodynamics to repeatedly inoculate the soil with microorganisms to maintain even a semblance of soil biome. With great biodiversity, the biome is naturally maintained.

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#90 Post by Chris C a r y »

This thread compelled me to buy the book American Terroir, by Rowan Jacobsen.

I have read it a few times and I've given away 2-3 copies to family/friends. Obviously a favorite book of mine, and I always prefer physical book to kindle/e-book. It is now out of print so I'll stop giving away my copies.

Anyway, when I get my new copy I will think about irrigation and other farming techniques, not sure if Jacobsen even considers some of that stuff, but the book is really interesting I think when applying the terroir definition/concept to other species of plants and even animals. Oysters are one of Jacobsen's things and he's written a couple of books on those, one of which I also just ordered. There IS a chapter in American Terroir about wine grapes, talking mostly about Napa, and part of my interest too, is the chapter on apples which talks about Tieton Cider works which is my local neighborhood. I'm almost certain Tieton irrigates their apple orchards, as do almost all of apple and tree fruit farmers in Eastern Washington, so I'll look for that connection, if discussed.

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#91 Post by Jon Drummond »

Marcus Goodfellow wrote: March 31st, 2021, 10:13 pm
Jon Drummond wrote: March 30th, 2021, 5:13 pm Pretty silly comment.

If anything:
-If you chaptalise (adds alcohol with sugar not from the vineyard), it's not terroir.
-If you use reverse osmosis (changes the result given from the vineyard), it's not terroir.
-If you use any new oak (adds flavour from a tree not from the vineyard), it's not terroir.

Irrigation actually appears to be the most terroir-neutral process here. Most of the vegetables and fruits we eat need irrigation, they don't get lots of sugar or oak added to them.
I don’t agree with you at all.

Cellar adds, including water, are generally very controlled and specific adds.

Irrigation is often done as a prophylactic, and is definitely done more more often based upon a need to feel like one is a “good farmer” than on whether it truly needs to be done. Very few winemakers actually feel like they are doing a better job by chaptalizing.

Irrigation also allows the plants to grow larger leaves, leading to more sugar accumulation in the fruit(photosynthsis) and bigger wines. It’s a long way from neutral in impact.
Let's take chaptalising, say in Burgundy.

My point was that winemakers are taking what nature has given them, deemed nature's output to be too low in sugar, and added more sugar to boost alcohol. It's an amelioration of nature's intended output.

Similarly with irrigation, chaptalisation is human intervention to a region's natural output.

My point is that it is difficult to take such a self-righteous view ("irrigation is not terroir") when there are so many other human interventions commonly practised during the grape growing and winemaking process.

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#92 Post by Mel Knox »

A friend used to say that cellars in California and Burgundy were alike in that they both had sacks of white powder. In Burgundy they held sugar; here, tartaric. Why is one terroirific and the other, icky poo??
Everyone forbids what is not necessary.

Nature doesn't always deal you a great hand and that's why there are so many winemaker tricks.

This reminds me of visiting a guy in Eastern Washington who grew apples for the Japanese market. The trees were surrounded by a superstructure that enabled him to mist when it got too hot, irrigate when needed, etc. and he could wrap the apples in bags a few days before harvest and then again at harvest. Did he have terroir?? Maybe not?? Did the apples taste great? You betcha!
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#93 Post by Eric Lundblad »

In burgundy, it's allowed to add sugar or tartaric to a lot. Can't add both sugar and tartaric to a single lot, but you can add sugar to one lot and tartaric to another and later blend them together. Not that I'm criticizing...like Mel said, nature isn't always friendly.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#94 Post by Mel Knox »

Eric,

That's very funny.I guess there is always a work around.

My memory is fuzzy on this but acidification of wine was forbidden. Then Andre Porcheret added acid to must and got in trouble. He countersued and won. He said must wasn't wine. The rules got fudged a bit because, I suppose, they had too many hot vintages.

I remember talking to winemakers about chaptalizing. They would say they added sugar to get 13 or 13,5. Now what?? They reverse osmose to 13,5??
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#95 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

Anton D wrote: March 31st, 2021, 11:08 am
James Sanders wrote: March 31st, 2021, 10:19 am Take a plot with consistent characteristics in an area that gets sufficient rain. Plant vines. Irrigate half. Dry farm the other. Continue for 20 years. Does anyone seriously think that after 20 years the grapes from the irrigated half will be the same as the dry farmed? Likewise, does anyone seriously think the grapes from the irrigated half will be more reflective of the location?
If it gets sufficient rain, then the irrigated vineyard would be over-watered. Yes?

Conversely, if we take a plot of land with insufficient rain and did the same comparison, we'd also see differences...or maybe, not....the dry side might be barren at your 20 year mark.

I'm leaving this up to the winemakers.
Getting a consensus on what “sufficient rain” is would be impossible.

And the only truth would be in watching the plants die because they didn’t get it. Even that would be subject to many variables.

But most growers in Oregon’s line for when irrigation depends mostly upon whether they have irrigation available or not. And I have listened to many, many growers talking about having to irrigate while working with vineyards that have never been irrigated. Though never irrigating undoubtedly help in lowering the level of “sufficient rain”.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#96 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

Jon Drummond wrote: April 1st, 2021, 4:17 pm
Marcus Goodfellow wrote: March 31st, 2021, 10:13 pm
Jon Drummond wrote: March 30th, 2021, 5:13 pm Pretty silly comment.

If anything:
-If you chaptalise (adds alcohol with sugar not from the vineyard), it's not terroir.
-If you use reverse osmosis (changes the result given from the vineyard), it's not terroir.
-If you use any new oak (adds flavour from a tree not from the vineyard), it's not terroir.

Irrigation actually appears to be the most terroir-neutral process here. Most of the vegetables and fruits we eat need irrigation, they don't get lots of sugar or oak added to them.
I don’t agree with you at all.

Cellar adds, including water, are generally very controlled and specific adds.

Irrigation is often done as a prophylactic, and is definitely done more more often based upon a need to feel like one is a “good farmer” than on whether it truly needs to be done. Very few winemakers actually feel like they are doing a better job by chaptalizing.

Irrigation also allows the plants to grow larger leaves, leading to more sugar accumulation in the fruit(photosynthsis) and bigger wines. It’s a long way from neutral in impact.
Let's take chaptalising, say in Burgundy.

My point was that winemakers are taking what nature has given them, deemed nature's output to be too low in sugar, and added more sugar to boost alcohol. It's an amelioration of nature's intended output.

Similarly with irrigation, chaptalisation is human intervention to a region's natural output.

My point is that it is difficult to take such a self-righteous view ("irrigation is not terroir") when there are so many other human interventions commonly practised during the grape growing and winemaking process.
From an absolute, “is this interfering with terroir” aspect there is little argument that RO, chaptalization, and adding water to must interfere with the exact outcome of a vintage.

Both chaptalization of must and water adds to must are the least impactful amelioration that I have ever experimented with. That isn’t to say that it isn’t an impact on terroir. But with chaptalization it’s a change in body, and generally a small one, but that doesn’t change any aspect of flavor or development that I personally can tell. And I have a very good palate.

Similarly, water adds to must, when done intelligently, make an definite impact in the wine by lowering alcohol, which changes body and opens up aromatics. Both are lower on my totem pole than barrels, tannins, fining, most definitely enzymes, and most other cellar techniques.

I altered farming significantly to avoid ever having to water back must, as that seemed only fair if I was going to require no irrigation in the vineyard.

BUT-

Irrigation is a massive impact that changes the vines, not the must. It also wil change the soil micorrhyzal balance, and the basic interaction of the soil profile(so will driving a tractor up and down the rows). The vines are completely altered. Roots stay at the surface, and leaf area is significantly larger. Green growth lasts longer into the growing season, and the horomonal changes in the plant that come with water stress are delayed significantly. That leads to stems that don’t lignify early enough, higher sugar accumulation, and and delayed development of flavor. Meanwhile as plants adapt to site, dry farmed plants react to drought stress by thickening skins to preserve the water stored in the fruit. Irrigated plants have no need for this as they have no shortage of water. Skin thickness is a pretty obvious impact in the cellar and on the ability to make wines that age. Yields, juice per ton, are significantly altered as such that any sane winery would prefer to irrigate(190 gallons/ton vs 160-165 for Willamette Valley Pinot Noir) but the skins are thinner.

In France irrigation costs a winery the ability to use their AOC.

In the new world, by and large, irrigation is legal. And, IMO, irrigation is as big a contributor to the old world vs new world difference as anything.

Historically old world vineyards were established without irrigation and vine material was hardy enough to survive in regions as arid as the Douro. And the wines reflect the tannic structure of grape skins farmed with a water deficit. As you look at new world vineyards established with irrigation, tannins, even in extremely warm areas like Red Mountain(and grapes wouldn’t grow there at all if not for the Columbia River) and the Central Valley of California have none of the impact of similar climates in Europe. (I am no expert on the Central Valley, so others can feel free to correct me there).
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#97 Post by Marshall Manning »

Thanks, Marcus, great information. That's the type of discussion I was hoping to promote with the original post, not a laundry list of other things that are done to wines, especially those that may not have as severe an impact on the wine's terroir as irrigation does.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#98 Post by Mel Knox »

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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#99 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

Mel Knox wrote: April 3rd, 2021, 8:23 am https://mailchi.mp/a08d0040d256/upcomin ... e541fbaddf

Another look at this topic
...healthy vines, high yields, and excellent wine quality...

All very subjective things.

You can participate in a huge number of seminars in this industry all espousing things to “improve your wines” that all typically trend back to a sale of some sort for the presenter.

If it didn’t sound smart, wineries wouldn’t participate. But a lot of it is extraneous.
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Re: "If You Irrigate, It's Not Terroir..."

#100 Post by Mel Knox »

Marcus,

There is no shortage of people in the wine trade who will borrow your watch, tell you what time it is and then send you the bill.

The Fruition Sciences folks are very good at this! I have seen the results of their work with vineyards and I was impressed. They also love to stage seminars and get other vendors to pay for it!

We have two questions here:

Terroir and Irrigation

Wine Quality and Irrigation


Since everyone has a personal notion of what terroir means, that subject can be discussed ad infinitum without getting very far.

Wine quality is another story. I have seen everything and don't believe in generalizations. I've seen great wines at nine tons to the acre and crappy wines at two tons.
I've seen great wines from irrigated and dry farmed vines. And bad wines from both.


I am reminded of the french term 'lutte raisonnee'...and don't wine things sound better in French! Essentially it means we will spray if we have to, but otherwise we will leave it alone. But hey, I've got a family to feed and I am not going to make them starve because I don't believe in spraying.

We are headed into a drought year--again--so many will have to triage their vineyards and decide which ones will be irrigated and which ones won't produce wine quality fruit.
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