Dying on the Vine: How Phylloxera Transformed Wine

Dying on the Vine: How Phylloxera Transformed Wine

Dying on the Vine: How Phylloxera Transformed Wine

Dying on the Vine: How Phylloxera Transformed Wine

Synopsis

Dying on the Vine chronicles 150 years of scientific warfare against the grapevine's worst enemy: phylloxera. In a book that is highly relevant for the wine industry today, George Gale describes the biological and economic disaster that unfolded when a tiny, root-sucking insect invaded the south of France in the 1860s, spread throughout Europe, and journeyed across oceans to Africa, South America, Australia, and California--laying waste to vineyards wherever it landed. He tells how scientists, viticulturalists, researchers, and others came together to save the world's vineyards and, with years of observation and research, developed a strategy of resistance. Among other topics, the book discusses phylloxera as an important case study of how one invasive species can colonize new habitats and examines California's past and present problems with it.

Excerpt

In the mid-1860s, a near-microscopic yellow insect, the grape phylloxera, invaded the South of France and began killing the native vines, the Cabernets, Chardonnays, Syrahs, and all their kin. Within fifty years the invasion had spread throughout Europe and had jumped the oceans to Africa, South America, Australia, and California, laying waste to vineyards wherever it landed. It was a biological disaster of worldwide proportions, a disaster that ruined national economies, destroyed agricultural systems, and destabilized cultures, causing massive migrations of peoples to fan out over the face of the globe, bringing social and political change wherever they went. Although bits and pieces of this tale have been told, much remains unchronicled and many lessons unlearned. in the story that follows, I attempt to describe in detail several crucial aspects of the phylloxera disaster for the first time, and along the way to reveal— often in a near day-to-day fashion— the lives of some of the major players who successfully fought the battle against the invading devastator of vines.

Three major foci emerge from the story. First, the phylloxera case is the original and best model for studying the dynamics of the interaction between human beings and an invasive species as it colonizes a new habitat. Careful attention to the events of the phylloxera invasion can direct our attention to currently unfolding invasive phenomena. Second, the French response to the phylloxera invasion provides the original . . .

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