COVID-19 AND OTHER CRISIS PARALLELISM IN EUROPEAN VITICULTURE: PHILLOXERA Sadly, I’m sure all of you heard about COVID-19 but maybe you don’t know what was Philloxera and what it meant for the wine world around one century ago. I would like to use this situation to create a parallelism between both situations trying to spread an optimist message in this hard situation and also an optimist feeling about humanity possibilities to learn from mistakes. Philoxera is an insect (specifically an aphid), a vine pest that destroyed almost the full amount of the European vineyards at the end of XIX century. This insect lives one part of its life underground and bites the roots what soon means the dead of the vines for the rottenness associated to this insect injures. This insect came from America in the second half of XIX century. It was unknow in Europe before. It arrived first to port places, London was the first place where it was found and soon also in Bordeaux, Porto and Malaga. It destroyed in a few years the full surface of vineyard in Europe except some located areas with sandy soils that don’t let the Philloxera survive and spread itself. It was a disaster, it seemed to be the end of the wine in the world but humanity was able to find a solution… This solution came from the same place the pest came, from America. American indigenous vines growing wild were resistant to these insect bites. Its roots were able to cicatrize faster than European ones and closing the injures the infections were avoid and the plants were able to survive and live together with the pest. Specially three indigenous vine species from America were selected: Vitis Riparia, Vitis Rupestris and Vitis Berlandieri. This initial species and some others that scientists were able to create by hybridization between them and between them and European grape varieties are today’s rootstocks that we use for grafting our grape varieties. Grafting we have up the soil the European grape variety (wine grape varieties: Tempranillo, Grenache,…) and under the soil the American rootstock that is resistant to the pest. Wow… magical solution, isn’t it? I know pretty well this history because my ancestors way of living has been a plant nursery grafting to produce vine plants to create new vineyards. I’ve worked in this business since I was a child to get my pocket money! This history of Philloxera mean for me several thoughts that we could make a parallelism with COVID-19… here you go my personal thoughts about:
  • Humanity was able to find a solution (I’m sure we’ll find it now too) and even an advantage. Today rootstocks give us the possibility to get an adaptation to different soils. Vitis Riparia was original from river banks areas, Vitis Berlandieri from poor soils with high limestone (calcium carbonates) and Vitis Rupestris had a strong vigour and was massively diffused in North America adapted to many different soil conditions. The capabilities of today’s rootstocks, inherited from their ancestors, allow us to choose the ones that best adapt to different soil conditions.
  • Solution came from scientists. With the maximum respect to all the other jobs in the world, science is what lets us to be closer to reality and what will always offer real solutions. I’d like to ask for more respect for scientists and I hope we’ll give them more value in our society. We make our heroes and models looking to football players, singers or whatever and never looking for scientists and doctors. I hope we will change it and also it will change our governments point of view giving to science research more financial resources.
  • Solution for Philloxera was in a natural environment. Our loved Earth is a closed system where everything is related. We take care about economy, about production costs,… and we eliminate everyday many natural environments, many other species disappear for our human activity,… we’ll pay a big toll for this relation with the planet in the future. Climate change is a sword hanging over our heads and in my humble opinion everything happening in the planet is always in some way related. I hope we could learn to have a more friendly relation with our environments preserving this lovely planet for our future generations.
  • All we have today in our life is not guaranteed it’ll be here in the future. I think we should appreciate more what we have, our small everyday pleasures as a glass of wine or our most important things as family and health.
Writing this closed at home in quarantine I keep my faith we are today one day closer to the end of this nightmare and grateful to all the people work to make these days easier for everybody and also for those looking for a solution. My best wishes for all of you!
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