In 1868 something begins to ravage France’s vines. After some digging—pun intended—it is discovered that a plant louse/ aphid known as phylloxera (phyl·lox·e·ra) was enjoying the roots instead of the wines in which they produced.
Although it is somewhat debated, the phylloxera mite is thought to have come from America sometime in the 1850’s. Back in Missouri Charles Valentine Riley, Missouri’s entomologist recognized the affliction in Frances plantings and wrote French botanist Jules Émile Planchon in 1870 to inform him that he too had observed this louse, feasting on the leaves of American vines, and not on the roots—his letter was quickly dismissed.
After some persistence, Riley visited France in 1871 and a argued that American rootstock was resistant to the aphid since the two had evolved together. He was correct! Then in the winter of 1872 George Husmann—The Father of the Missouri Grape Industry in Herman, Missouri—also a scientist, educator, and writer—sent nearly 400,000 cuttings to Montpellier, France. In spite of some French resistance to using American root stock the project was successful and the so-called la défense began.
To this day, all vines with few exceptions are planted on this Missouri bred rootstock in France and America with a local exception—our Astral Cabernet Sauvignon. To this day Astral remains one of the few California Cabernet’s not reliant on disease resistant stock, due in large part to Happy Canyon’s lack of humidity, and the presence of sandy soil!
~ Dierberg * Star Lane
Not long ago I reviewed the Astral Cabernet Sauvignon by Dierberg * Star Lane. I had been wanting to explore this wine since my visit a few years ago and it did not disappoint (see link to my post just above). Shortly after, Dierberg shared the story behind this vineyard. I found it very interesting and thought you might enjoy reading (posted with permission).