Wine Word of the Week: “Phylloxera”
June 22, 2016 / Stephanie Miskew / 0 Comments
Our latest Wine Word of the Week is phylloxera, a big word that refers to a tiny, sap-sucking root louse that loves to feast on the roots of vitis vinifera grapevines. By feeding on the grapevine however, the flow of nutrients to the plant is cut off, causing it to eventually die. Since the 1800’s, phylloxera’s predilection for these “vinifera” vines, which produce such well known wines as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, has had a devastating impact on the history of the world’s fine wine industry.
Phylloxera was introduced to the vineyards of Europe in the mid 1800’s when two English botanists unknowingly brought back infected vine cuttings from America. Since the pesky louse originated in America, indigenous grapevines were naturally resistant. However, Europe’s vinifera vines had no natural protection and an epidemic quickly took hold. The first signs of infestation manifested in France’s Southern Rhone in 1863. The louse subsequently spread like wildfire and, by the late 1800’s, almost 90% of Europe’s vineyards and it’s grape growing industry had effectively been destroyed.
Ironically, the source of the problem also turned out to be its salvation. After experimenting with a few different methods, it turned out that grafting vinifera vines onto naturally resistant, American rootstocks was the best way to combat the scourge of phylloxera. Thankfully, the resistant rootstocks offered protection without affecting the taste or development of the vinifera grapes as other experimental methods had. Phylloxera also had a significant impact on the vineyards of California where it also became important to graft vines onto the most resistant rootstocks available. While the debate continues as to which rootstocks are most ideal, the practice of grafting continues to this day.
While phylloxera has found its way into most wine regions of the world, a few have managed to remain untouched. These include Chile, due to its geographic isolation; the island of Santorini in Greece because of its sandy, ashy soils which the phylloxera louse hates; and most of the continent of Australia. Needless to say, these regions continue to be vigilant about preventing this pest from infesting their grapevines.
I hope you enjoyed our latest Wine Word of the Week! To see previous installments, please click here. If there’s a wine word you’d like to learn more about, please leave it in the comment section below!
June 22, 2016 / Stephanie Miskew / 0 Comments
Stephanie Miskew thinks life is better with wine and she wants to help you enjoy it to the fullest! As a Certified Sommelier, her real world advice on tasting wine like a pro, discovering which wines you truly love, picking the perfect bottle for any occasion and creating magical food and wine pairings will have you looking like a wine expert in any situation.
Looking for the perfect Thanksgiving wines that’ll pair with everything on your table, make even your wine snobbiest guest happy and won’t break the bank? Well, look no further! In my latest segment on WPTV I share some fabulous wines that all play nicely with a wide variety of flavors, appeal to a plethora of palates and are all under… Read More
The offers for wine clubs are E V E R Y W H E R E these days! From department stores to airlines, it seems like everyone wants to sign you up and they’re making pretty outrageous-sounding offers to lure you in. One promises “20 wines for a dollar,” while another features ONLY “award winning wines” – they all sound… Read More
“By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea!” ~ Harold Atteridge + Harry Carroll, 1914 While Summer is definitely one of my favorite times to pack up and get outta town, as the season draws to a close, I find myself craving the comforts of home. Don’t get me wrong, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Highlands, North… Read More
“Meet me in Montauk!” – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind The day after the glamour and indulgence of “Chefs & Champagne,” the James Beard Foundation’s Summer fundraiser that I cover every year, Steve and I love spending a relaxed, unplanned day discovering the Hamptons. Last year’s meandering led us to afternoon cocktails at Topping Rose House followed by a… Read More
Nowhere embodies relaxed Summer glamour quite like the Hamptons. Located on the East End of Long Island, this sophisticated seaside haven is also home to our favorite Summer event, the James Beard Foundation’s “Chefs & Champagne.” Held on the last Saturday in July, this glamorous Summer soirée takes place under a sprawling white tent beneath cerulean skies, at the scenic… Read More
It’s Week 3 of Rosé Month on The Wine Atelier Podcast and in this episode, I’m excited to introduce you to someone who’s had his finger on the pulse of rosé since his first cover story on the subject ten years ago, Mitch Frank, News Editor of Wine Spectator Magazine. I’m also happy to report, his second cover story on… Read More