Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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flooding of vineyards is normally a major inconvenience. Vines can be damaged if there is flooding while they are growing, but not if they are dormant. Floodwaters can also destroy trellis systems if debris catches in wires. el niño has made vineyard flooding in California commonplace but fortunately it is usually confined to the winter months.

Flooding (where feasible and controlled) was at one time a measure deliberately used in France, Argentina, and elsewhere to prevent or to minimize the effects of phylloxera, the root louse that devastated many of the world’s vineyards in the late 19th century. Flooding when the vines are dormant can drown the lice but leave the vines unharmed, if not prolong their life expectancy. Unfortunately this treatment was also a factor in the abandonment of many of France’s good hillside vineyards, and replanting on flatland where the mesoclimate and soils are inferior for wine quality (see languedoc in particular).