No Rain? Dry Farming May Be the Answer
While dry farming may be a new concept to many of us, it's actually been used for centuries to produce wine without irrigation in California and southern Europe. Before irrigation, it was used in California to make what many considered to be the best wines from the area. Dry farming utilizes the soil and seasonal rain, in combination with deep-rooted vines, to grow crops.
Dry farming can only happen in certain regions, as it requires the right conditions. Everything from the angle of the sun to the type of soil and amount of rain is considered. These conditions produce a much lower yield, but can be useful in certain drought situations or desirable for other reasons, such as the type of soil you're working with, or for heightening the quality and flavor of the produce.
In California, farmers are starting to use dry farming to save water. In southern Europe, farmers have done this for centuries in the vineyards, and continue to do so to this day. Many believe that bothering the soil with irrigation can be damaging or disruptive to the vines. In certain areas of France, irrigation isn't even allowed, as growers believe it lowers the quality of the fruit.
Dry farming wine requires vines with much longer roots than irrigated vines do. Growers say you can taste the age of the roots and sparse water conditions in the wine's concentration of flavor. In California, some are rediscovering this process during periods of low rain. In any case, dry farming makes for great wine!