History of Phylloxera
Phylloxera’s Effect on the history California’s vineyards
New World varietals developed immunity to phylloxera due to years of exposure. Unfortunately, European Vitis vinifera varietals had no such resistance.
During the mid 19th century, vintners on both sides of the Atlantic began to exchange cuttings. Around 1860, phylloxera was inadvertently introduced to French vines through one of these exchanges. When these vines were planted in French soil, the pest went to work. In 1863, the first recorded outbreak occurred in Provence.
It quickly spread throughout the surrounding regions, eventually reaching vines in Italy and Germany. By the turn of the century, over one half of Europe’s vineyards had been destroyed. At the same time, Vitis vinifera vines in the New World were also under siege.
Phylloxera was finally tamed by the innovation of grafting. Vitis vinifera cuttings onto Native American rootstocks. Resistant hybrids were also developed, but most made poor wine and have since gone by the wayside.
A new type of phylloxera emerged during the 1980s in California Wine Country. It attacked ARx1 rootstocks which were previously thought to be immune to phylloxera. This caused a massive amount of replanting on newly developed rootstocks.
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