02 maio 2017

The Great Wine Blight

Sometime in the 1850s, the North American root louse phyloxera vastatrix was brought to Europe. And it discovered it really, really liked grape vines. Which is bad, because grapes are used to make wine, and Europeans <strong>love</strong> their wine. Phyloxera vastatrix devastated European rootstocks for decades. The French were the worst affected, and the whole disaster became known as the “Great French Wine Blight.” The French government even offered over 320,000 Francs as a reward to whoever could discover a cure for the blight.

Leo Laliman and Gaston Bazille, two French wine growers, each proposed the same solution: if louse-susceptible European vines were grafted onto the louse-resistant American roots, then the problem might be solved. A Texan named Thomas Munson was consulted. He agreed that yes, this might work, and he provided native Texan rootstock for grafting. With some persuasion all French and all European vines were grafted. In France this is colloquially known as the “Reconstitution.”

Unfortunately, phyloxera vastatrix still poses a threat to any European grape vine which has not been combined with American vines. To this day, almost all European wines come from grafted vines.

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