Root sugar accumulation was studied in two grapevine varieties contrasting in tolerance to water stress. During a 10-day water withholding treatment, the drought tolerant variety, Grenache, sustained less negative predawn and midday leaf water potentials as well as root water potential compared with the sensitive variety, Semillon. Grenache vines also maintained lower stomatal conductance and transpiration than Semillon vines throughout the drying period. In both varieties there was accumulation of sucrose in the roots and concentrations were inversely correlated to leaf and root water status. In both Grenache and Semillon, elevated root osmolality was associated with decreased soil moisture indicating that sugar accumulation may play a role in osmotic protection. Petiole xylem sap abscisic acid (ABA) concentrations increased with water deficit in both varieties and were highest for vines with the most negative root and predawn leaf water potentials. Furthermore, root sucrose concentrations were positively correlated with leaf xylem sap ABA concentrations, indicative of integration between carbohydrate metabolism and the ABA signalling system. Similar root sugar accumulation patterns between the two varieties, however, demonstrate that other factors are likely influencing the ability of the drought tolerant variety to remain hydrated.