If only drones existed during the 19th century

Vintners are looking to drones to save their vineyards from drought. Share this article

Any well-versed sommelier could tell you the story of how certain regions in Spain became prominent players in the wine community. To make a long story short, much of the country's successful vineyards are traced back to a nasty vine disease called phylloxera that killed off everyone else's harvest, thus forcing them to outsource for bottled varietals. Fast-forward to modern day and you're faced with an entirely different wine scene – a world where drones are being used to protect land.

Drones vs drought
At least that's what a couple of Californians are doing to keep face in times when the state is facing serious temperature increases. As NPR food blog Salt explained, DRNK Wines in Sebastopol, California, aren't the only ones using the aerial computers to monitor the conditions of the grapes. Important factors that can ultimately affect the outcome of the bottled and aged products such as the vines' ripeness and harvest dates can be tracked by keeping an eye in the sky. 

Those in favor of the drone strategy hope to collect enough data to figure out what patches of land need more fertilizer or water so that their precious money-makers don't dry up. In addition to these efforts, some vintners are investing in special products to protect the grapes and vines.

Many vineyards are testing sunscreen products to protect vines from damaging temperatures.

Sunscreen for vines
This particular tactic surfaced around a year ago, at which time the Australian government released a statement explaining the details. A group called the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation decided to give certain products out to interested candidates for a trial run, so that experts may use the feedback to determine which methods worked and which ones flopped.

Of course, it's only natural for wine drinkers of the world to wonder, "Can these products affect the nose and taste of terrior-driven wines?" And the answer to that is they shouldn't. As explained by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority, the sprays are meant to be absorbed by the plants within a 5- to 6-hour timeframe. No residue should remain on the leaves, grape skins or other parts of the surface.

It's to be seen if these efforts will pay off in the long run, however, it's worth noting just how far vintners have come since the early days of wine production. SpanishWines.org confirmed that phylloxera wiped out the majority of wine plants during the 19th century. The disease spread like wildfire and rendered many of the top producers helpless when it came time to meet their marks. 

Before modern inventions 
That's when Spain – a region that wasn't on the scene yet – came to the rescue. People from various countries headed to Spain to use the unharmed land to grow their crops. That's how Spaniards accrued their wine knowledge. SpanishWines.org summarized that the Pyrenees imparted tools and winemaking knowledge on the vintners, and ultimately gave them a basis for growing and harvesting grapes, and La Rioja became the first region known for winemaking during that time. 

"Today, anyone who knows anything about wine will tell you that Spain offers some of the world's best wines."

Today, anyone who knows anything about wine will tell you that Spain offers some of the world's best wines. Connoisseurs and food critics from all over tout Priorat for its full-bodied, complex varietals. The Wall Street Journal sang the region's praises by calling them "truly impressive wines." You can take its word, as one of its writers even spent time visiting the foreign territory to have a taste.

Will drones save every last drop?
While it's unknown whether drones could have changed history, they may make it in the future. If there's one glaring takeaway, it's just how far the world has come when it comes to the upkeep of vineyards. 

It could mean less accidental successes, as in the story of how Spain came to be one of the better-known wine producers in the world. However, it could also mean winos won't have to worry about the destruction of a perfectly good harvest before consumption. 

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