It all began in the 19th Century when the insect phylloxera was bought over by botanists in Victorian England from North America. This lead to a devastating epidemic across Europe attacking vineyards. This insect feeds on the rootstock allowing bacteria to enter which then leads on to decay of the vine and death! There has been many attempts to deal with the louse including burying a live toad to draw out the poison!
Toads aside they found that the American vine has resistance to the louse so therefore these vines can survive if the louse were to appear. While the European vine, vitis vinifera died people started to replant with the American labrusca vine, however, the taste of the grapes were not of the same quality so therefore this wasn’t a satisfactory substitute.
They have found that grafting the vitis vinifera vine on to American rootstock works successfully. Extensive research has taken place and still continues as each rootstock has to match the soil type and grape variety being used. Not all grafting has been successful and some species are now very limited or have died out.
Grafting is now a worldwide practice to protect against the potential risk of Phylloxera, although there are a few places in the world that don’t have this problem such as Chile. They are seen to have natural defences such as the sea, mountains and desert. Strict quarantine procedures are in place to protect this.
Thinking of planting a vineyard? Then make sure you have your American rootstock.