What is Grape Phylloxera? | 'Winebanter' | Scoop.it

A scourge erupted in Europe that nearly destroyed every single wine grape in the world. In the late 1800′s, wineries all over Europe ripped up and burned their family’s ancient vineyards in a desperate attempt to stop the spread of disease. By the 1900′s Phylloxera had taken a beyond-imaginable toll: over 70% of the vines in France were dead –the livelihoods of thousands of families were ruined.
There was an international wine deficit. In one scenario, three small precious plots of Pinot Noir owned by Bollinger in Champagne magically resisted Phylloxera. The resulting 3000 bottles of wine called “Vieille Vignes Françaises” (French Old Vines) became the most sought-after bottles of Champagne. Devastated by the wrath, the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce in France offered 20,000 Francs –$1 million today– to anyone who could find a cure.
So what was the cause of the grape phylloxera destruction and how come there is still no cure?
What is Grape Phylloxera?
Phylloxera is a microscopic louse or aphid, that lives on and eats roots of grapes. It can infest a vineyard from the soles of vineyard worker’s boots or naturally spreading from vineyard-to-vineyard by proximity.
Where did Phylloxera come from? short answer: The United States.
The genus Phylloxera is characterized by having three-jointed antennae, the third or terminal much the longest, and by carrying its wings overlapping flat on the back instead of roof-fashion. It belongs to the whole-winged bugs (Homoptera), and osculates between two great families of that sub-order, the plant-lice (Aphididae) on the one hand and the bark-lice {Coccidae) on the other. In the one-jointed tarsus of the larva or newly-hatched louse, and in being always oviparous, it shows its affinities with the latter family; but in the two-jointed tarsus of the more mature individuals, and in all other characters, it is essentially aphididan.
(CHAS. V. RILEY, M. A., Ph. D. “The Grape Phylloxera” Popular Science, May 1874)
European Wine Grapes with American Roots
Today rootstock is still used for much of the wine world and phylloxera is still a danger.
There have been several cases where vineyards have remained untouched by grape phylloxera. While many of these locations are a mystery, a high proportion of the phylloxera-resistant vineyards have sandy soils in areas with high winds.


Via Mariano Pallottini