- Isohydric plants maintain constant water potential through rapid stomatal closure, whereas anisohydric plants only close their stomata at very low water potentials. However, distinctions between isohydric and anisohydric behaviors among different cultivars of the same species are unclear. This study compared the physiological response to prolonged drought stress in the isohydric Grenache and the anisohydric Shiraz cultivars of the Vitis vinifera species. Plants were exposed to 60-day periods of deficit irrigation (25% of plant water consumption under well-watered conditions) during the summers of 2011 and 2012. Physiological measurements, water potential, leaf gas exchange, canopy area, leaf senescence, stem characteristics, and morphological characteristics were analyzed. Stomatal conductance was consistently lower in Grenache than in Shiraz at all values of midday stem and predawn leaf water potentials, respectively. The Shiraz plants exhibited greater vegetative growth and less defoliation than the Grenache plants in response to water deficit. Anatomical architecture analyses revealed that Grenache plants had greater xylem vessel diameter, hydraulic conductivity, and stomatal density than the Shiraz plants. These results suggest isohydric and anisohydric behaviors may be well-defined, time-regulated responses rather than distinct mechanisms that plants use to cope with drought stress. The rapid response to water deficit exhibited by isohydric plants may be because they are more vulnerable to fatal xylem embolisms than anisohydric plants. Thus, the accelerated response allows isohydric plants to avoid drought stress and minimize risk of xylem cavitation, but may lower the plant’s ability to survive moderate stress of prolonged drought.