The Great French Wine Blight

Definition - What does The Great French Wine Blight mean?

The Great French Wine Blight occurred during the 1800s when the aphid "Phylloxera" infested and destroyed the majority of French wine vines as well as vines throughout Europe. The blight was first discovered in the Languedoc province in 1863 and lasted through to the mid 1870s.

Phylloxera is believed to have been introduced to France by imported American wine vines that carried the aphid, but were resistant and not susceptible to the Phylloxera and the disease it carries. During the time of the blight, over 40% of French grape vines were destroyed, and wine production in France almost ceased.

Due to the blight, the French Industry was stricken by the lack of wine production and sales, lost wages and devastated vineyards. Phylloxera was resistant to pesticides and chemicals, and this led to discovery of grafting French Vines onto the Phylloxera-resistance American vine root stock.

WineFrog explains The Great French Wine Blight

The Great French Wine blight changed the wine industry and vineyard practices in France and throughout the world. During the blight, as French vineyards suffered with Phylloxera without a remedy, many vineyards closed up shop and relocated to new areas throughout the world to get a fresh start. The surviving vineyard owners in France either chose to deal with Phylloxera with pesticides and chemicals, or with grafting.

Phylloxera is very resistant to chemicals and pesticides, so this method was a long uphill battle. Grafting meant cutting the diseased roots off of the French vine and grafting it onto American root stock and it made the vines healthy and able to grow in spite of the Phylloxera. Grafting the French vines onto the Phylloxera resistant American root stock, created a divide in the wine industry, even though grafting was proven to be successful.

Since the blight, wine grape growers have had an ongoing debate about whether grafted vines or self-rooted vines produce the best wine. While grafting vines onto Phylloxera resistant rootstock allows the Vines to grow without succumbing to Phylloxera, there is still no remedy for the blight, and vineyards who grow self-rooted vines are still at risk for blight from phylloxera.

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