PrePhylloxera Wines – Tasting the Difference

Ungrafted Vines – what is the impact on the wine?

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I use this wine key: Forge de Laguiole Ebony
I have used this glass in this Video: Nude Glass Powerful Reds
I have tasted the following wines in this Video:

2022 Sermann Altenahr Eck Wurzelechte Riesling, Germany, Ahr

2019 Bodegas Naia-Vina Sila ‘Naiades’, Rueda, Spain

2022 De Martino Viejas Tinajas Cinsault, Itata Valley, Chile

2021 Langmeil Winery ‘The Freedom 1843’ Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia

The 100 Point Scoring System (from
96-100: An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase and consume.
90 – 95: An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines.
80 – 89: A barely above average to very good wine displaying various degrees of finesse and flavor as well as character with no noticeable flaws.
70 – 79: An average wine with little distinction except that it is soundly made. In essence, a straightforward, innocuous wine.
60 – 69: A below-average wine containing noticeable deficiencies, such as excessive acidity and/or tannin, an absence of flavor or possibly dirty aromas or flavors.
50 – 59: A wine deemed to be unacceptable.

Over the millennia wine has encountered many threads and challenges. However, its biggest challenge could have upended viticulture as we know it around the world. In the middle of the 19th century plants from the new world were all the rage in Europe and thousands of tons were imported into France alone.

They were planted into the gardens of the elites to study them and to show off with those collections. No one noticed the stowaways – little insects and diseases that were imported alongside the plants at the time. One of them was particularly dangerous to Vitis Vinifera vines and that insect is called Phylloxera.

According to the Oxford Companion to Wine the first report of Phylloxera was in England in 1863 by an Oxford University Professor. When vineyards started dying at the end of the 1860s it was already too late. The little insect has spread across the vineyards of the old world leaving a trail of destruction. Phylloxera has a complex life cycle but the damage mainly occurs when the female 1mm small louse is feeding on the sap of the vines underground.

The feeding itself is not the problem but the European Vitis Vinifera varieties have not developed resistance to the bacteria and fungi that enter the vine through the feeding wounds. American varieties built up resistance as they coexisted alongside the pest. They developed a corky layer below the wounds that protected them from microbes entering the plant. The wine production in France fell by over 70% from 1875 to 1889 and winemakers tried exceedingly desperate methods to control phylloxera. Flooding showed some positive effects but it wasn’t an option in many areas that did not have access to enough water or for vineyards on slopes.

Another popular treatment was pumping carbon bisulfide into the soil. This procedure killed off Phylloxera but also everything else and in some cases destroyed the vines. In the end, salvation came in the form of grafting the vitis vinifera vines onto an American rootstock.

Grafting works like this: an American rootstock is selected for its characteristics and its ability to cope in the location you want to plant it in – tolerance for drought and ability to survive in chalky soils are for example factors that can be taken into consideration.
A cutting of a European vitis vinifera vine – like Chardonnay, Riesling, or Sangiovese is then attached to those roots. At a nursery, they grow together over time, and they can then be planted in the vineyard. Back in the 19th century, many vignerons were concerned whether grafting the vines onto a foreign plant would impact the quality of their vines or impart the weird foxy flavors of the American vines into our wines.

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