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Dying on the Vine

How Phylloxera Transformed Wine

George D. Gale Jr.

Publication Year: 2011

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.

Published by: University of California Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

A huge number of people helped me along the way as I wrote this book—none of whom, of course, is the least bit responsible for any of my mistakes. The UMKC Office of Research Administration funded my visits to the École Nationale Supérieure d’Agronomie de Montpellier and the University of California, Davis. ...

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pp. 1-12

In the mid-1860s, a near- microscopic yellow insect, the grape phylloxera,1 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, ...

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Chapter 1: Disaster Strikes: “All your Vines are Fatally Condemned to Disappear, Monsieur”

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pp. 13-50

In summer 1866 a few grapevines in an obscure vineyard along the Rhône, in the South of France, withered and died. Others around them began to show signs of the same progression. Over the next thirty years the withering disease would spread throughout France and Eu rope and into North and South America, Africa, and Australia, ...

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Chapter 2: La Défense: Sand, Submersion, and Sulfiding

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pp. 51-78

Official recognition of the bug’s “unique responsibility” for the disease at first did little to abet the growing chaos. Between 1875 and 1881 the bug swept northward up the Rhône from the Hérault into southern Beaujolais and beyond. In the Gironde, the bug jumped the river and rapidly proceeded north, ...

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Chapter 3: La Reconstitution

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pp. 79-119

By 1882 it was clear that La Défense had failed. As much as official Paris wanted to keep American vines out and traditional French practices in, it wasn’t going to happen. Defending traditional French practices against the American insect scourge was simply too expensive and ineffective in terms of time, environment, labor, and finance. ...

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Chapter 4: The Underground Battle: Grafting on American Rootstock

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pp. 120-162

The grafting of fruit, including grapevines, has been documented since Pliny. The procedure serves many purposes, but it is relatively simple in both concept and execution. Elements of two or more separate plants are physically united in such a way that root support from one is used by the other. ...

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Chapter 5: Phylloxera Makes the European Grand Tour

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pp. 163-183

The bug respected no political boundaries. Even while it was strengthening its hold in France, advance parties were breaking out into the surrounding territory. Some invasions were slow and inevitable, proceeding at the pace of the natural expansion of the bug carried by wind and rain. ...

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Chapter 6: The Bug Goes South: New Venues, Same Story

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pp. 184-200

Grapes and wine making came early to the southern hemisphere, on the heels of the colonizers. By the time of the phylloxera each of the major southern wine-producing regions—Australia, South Africa, and Argentina—had developed local industries of significance, and, in the case of South Africa, ...

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Chapter 7: The Old Americans, or How the Fox Conquered Europe

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pp. 201-210

“But their wine is undrinkable,” or so said Leo Laliman when he first alerted the wine world to the phylloxera resistance of the American vines. Yet the thirsty French vignerons learned to drink these undrinkable new wines soon enough. Within a few years the original American vines—the Old Americans—had spread throughout the south of France ...

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Chapter 8: Phylloxera Breaks Out (Twice) in California

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pp. 211-246

Grapes came to California early: Spanish padres brought vines with them from Baja California when they founded the first Alta California mission, Mission San Diego, in 1789 (Davidson and Nougaret 1921, 3). Undoubtedly the grape variety would have been the Mission, since it was the only variety planted at missions that were founded earlier and later.1 ...

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pp. 247-250

A few sickened vines in an obscure vineyard in the Rhône Valley rapidly became a worldwide disaster for grapes, wine, and the people whose life they were. In the end, everything changed. And things are still changing, because the tiny yellow bug will always be with us. California now thoroughly understands this reality. ...

Appendix A. Life Cycle of Phylloxera

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pp. 251-252

Appendix B. American Wild Grape Species

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pp. 253-256

Appendix C. Old American Varieties

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pp. 257-258


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pp. 259-284


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pp. 285-286


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pp. 287-302


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pp. 303-323

Production Notes

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p. 335-335

E-ISBN-13: 9780520948853
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520265486

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2011