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The Levadas

Updated: May 12, 2023

For Gema Vineyard’s Alvarino Wine

Grapes require specific conditions to grow properly, and one of the most important factors is irrigation, the process of supplying water to crops to help them grow. Grapes are a water-intensive crop that requires a regular and consistent supply of water throughout their growing cycle. The amount of water required depends on the soil, climate, and grape variety.

Correct irrigation management helps maintain the soil moisture at an optimal level, which is essential for the grapevines to grow and develop properly. If the soil is too dry, the vines may suffer from drought stress, which can impact the quality and yield of the grapes. Too much water may cause vines to develop shallow roots which can make them more susceptible to drought stress in the future. Too much water may also lead to reduced flavour and aroma of our wine.

Irrigation helps to regulate the temperature of the soil, which is critical for grapevines. When the temperature of the soil is too high, the vines may experience heat stress, which can lead to sunburn, reduced photosynthesis, and decreased yield. Correct irrigation also helps manage pests and diseases. Many pests and diseases thrive in dry and warm conditions, so maintaining optimal soil moisture can help prevent infestations and infections.

There are several types of irrigation systems used in grape growing. The most common include:

  1. Drip irrigation: This system delivers water directly to the roots of the grapevines through small emitters. It is the most efficient and precise method of irrigation, as it minimizes water waste and ensures that the vines receive the exact amount of water they need.

  2. Sprinkler irrigation: This system uses sprinklers to distribute water over the grapevines. It is less precise than drip irrigation, but it can cover a larger area and is more suitable for larger vineyards.

  3. Flood irrigation: This system involves flooding the vineyard with water. It is less commonly used in grape growing, as it can lead to water waste and soil erosion.

The Levada Irrigation System

At the Gema Vineyard, we also have access to a unique underground water system that manages the run-off of water from the surrounding mountain ranges, known as the Levada Irrigation System.

The word "levada" comes from the Portuguese word "levar," which means "to carry." The levadas were built by hand using stone and concrete, and some of them date back to the 16th century. The Gema Vinyard Levadas consists of narrow canals or channels that transport water from the mountains to our vineyard fields which are located at lower elevations.

The water is diverted from the mountain streams and carried through the canals by gravity, the excess water is returned to our very own river access.

While the Levada Irrigation System isn’t the only source of water for Gema Vinyard it does support the sustainable development of our specialized Alvarino wine production at the Gema Vineyards.

We are not too sure when the levada irrigation system for our region was first built. It may have been 100, 200, or more years ago, but it is a traditional means of irrigation that is still used today at the Gema Vineyard, an interesting and lesser-known fact of our cultural heritage.

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