Precision Viticulture

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

precision viticulture is an approach to wine-grape production which recognizes that the productivity of individual vineyard blocks can show marked spatial variation in relation to variation in the land (soil, topography) underlying the vineyard. Thus, vineyard management is targeted rather than implemented uniformly over large areas. Research in Australia suggests that grape yield within a single vineyard under conventional uniform management will typically vary 10-fold (i.e. 2–20 tonnes/ha).

Critical to this approach to grape and wine production is the collection and use of large amounts of data relating to vine performance and the attributes of individual production areas (vineyards, blocks, sub-blocks, zones, etc.) at a high spatial resolution. This approach relies on a number of key enabling technologies including the global positioning system (GPS), geographical information systems (GIS), remote sensing, proximal sensing, and yield monitors, which, when used in conjunction with the GPS, enable geo-referenced records of yield to be collected ‘on-the-go’ during harvest. Such technologies, and the data derived from them, enable precision viticulture (PV) practitioners to manage vineyards by ‘zones’ rather than by blocks using targeted management to tailor production according to expectations of vineyard performance, and desired goals in terms of both yield and/or grape composition and wine quality. This is feasible given recent research which has shown that patterns of spatial variation in vineyard performance tend to be constant from one vintage to another, which in turn lends itself to the adoption of zonal viticulture and selective harvesting, and the use of data collected in previous years to predict likely performance in subsequent years.