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Phylloxera, the great plague of Wines
27 Jul, 2018

The world of wine was shaken in 1863.

A great plague descended on the vineyards, slowly withering them to death with hardly any cure to heal, despite the time of discovery and science.

This disease changed the face of the industry forever, and it originated from a humble bug, the Phylloxera. A winged insect from North America, like the Black Plague of old, was introduced to Europe by accident. It came through the shipment of American wine stocks, sent to be studied by European botanist.

It spread like wildfire, carried by the wind, planting its eggs in the soils where the grapes grew. Its pups would then hatch to attack the root system of the wine stock, feeding on its sap and slowly killing the plant. It was therefore already too late when winemakers discovered the bug. No cure could be found, only floodings the terroir (to drown the larvae) and certain soil composition could halt it (high winds, sand, schist…).

The solution was to graft European wine branches on American rootstock and it was naturally adapted. By the time this solution was found, much of Europe’s wine industry had been damaged beyond recovery. Wine regions disappeared, such as Paris, or were impoverished and many winemakers migrated to the New World and or the European colonies.

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