Wine Word of the Week: Phylloxera

By Kori ~ December 11th, 2008.

This week’s Wine Word of the Week is phylloxera.

Official definition from Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine:
Phylloxera. This small yellow root-feeding aphid has probably had a more damaging impact on wine production than any other vine pest, or any vine disease. It attacks only grapevines, and kills vines by attacking their roots. For many years after it first invaded Europe there was no known cure.

The effects of phylloxera were first noted in France in 1863…. The phylloxera louse was an unwelcome import from America which devastated European vineyards until appropriate control measures were found. …. Phylloxera invasion had a major social and economic impact, involving national governments and local committees, and requiring international scientific collaboration. For a while the very existence of the French wine industry was threatened. ….

Phylloxera is now widespread around the world, having been found in California (1873), Portugal (1871), Turkey (1871), Austria (1872), Switzerland (1874), Italy (1875), Australia (1877), Spain (1878), Algeria (1885), South Africa (1885), New Zealand (1885), and Greece (1898).

Layman’s terms from Kori:
Phylloxera is one bad bug. It is actually a root louse that attacks the roots of grapevines. It originated in America but has spread around the world, devastating numerous wine regions.

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