Grapevines store non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) during late summer to sustain plant development at the onset of the following spring’s growth. Starch is the main stored carbohydrate, found in the wood-ray parenchyma of roots and canes. Although the relationship between hydraulic and plant photosynthetic performance is well-recognized, little research has been done on the long-term effects of drought in grapevines adopting different strategies to cope with water stress (i.e. isohydric and anisohydric). We performed our study by exposing two different grape cultivars (Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon) to a short but severe drought stress, at two stages of the growing season (July and September). No marked differences in the physiological and hydraulic responses of the two varieties were found, probably due to our experimental conditions. However, anatomical and biochemical characterization of overwintering canes pointed out several interesting outcomes. We found a significant and parallel increase of starch and medullar ray number in both cultivars exposed to early water stress. We hypothesize that stressed vines limited their carbon allocation to growth, while shifting it to starch accumulation, with a most evident effect in the period of intense photosynthetic activity. We also speculate that a different aptitude to osmotic adjustment may underlay variation in starch increase and the specific involvement of bark NSC in the two cultivars.