Anthocyanin biosynthesis is strongly up-regulated in ripening fruit of grapevines (Vitis vinifera L.) grown under drought conditions. We investigated the effects of long-term water deficit on the expression of genes coding for flavonoid and anthocyanin biosynthetic enzymes and related transcription factors, genes sensitive to endogenous [sugars, abscisic acid (ABA)] and environmental (light) stimuli connected to drought stress, and genes developmentally regulated in ripening berries. Total anthocyanin content has increased at harvest in water-stressed (WS) fruits by 37-57% in two consecutive years. At least 84% of the total variation in anthocyanin content was explained by the linear relationship between the integral of mRNA accumulation of the specific anthocyanin biosynthetic gene UDP-glucose : flavonoid 3-O-glucosyltransferase (UFGT) and metabolite content during time series from véraison through ripening. Chalcone synthase (CHS2, CHS3) and flavanone 3-hydroxylase (F3H) genes of the flavonoid pathway showed high correlation as well. Genes coding for flavonoid 3',5'-hydroxylase (F3'5'H) and O-methyltransferase (OMT) were also up-regulated in berries from dehydrated plants in which anthocyanin composition enriched in more hydroxylated and more methoxylated derivatives such as malvidin and peonidin, the grape anthocyanins to which human gastric bilitranslocase displays the highest affinity. The induction in WS plants of structural and regulatory genes of the flavonoid pathway and of genes that trigger brassinosteroid hormonal onset of maturation suggested that the interrelationships between developmental and environmental signalling pathways were magnified by water deficit which actively promoted fruit maturation and, in this context, anthocyanin biosynthesis.