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Wine Glossary

Definition: Phylloxera

[fihl-LOX-er-uh] A tiny aphidlike insect that attacks the roots of grapevines. Phylloxera sucks the nutrients from the roots and slowly starves the vine, creating a dramatic decrease in fruit. It doesn't affect the taste of the resulting wine but, eventually, replanting is required. Unfortunately, new vines do not produce the same quality fruit until they mature, which can take 8 to 10 years or more. Phyl¬?loxera vastatrix (its Latin name) is thought to be indigenous to the eastern United States, and the thick, strong, native American rootstocks are reasonably resistant to this parasite. Much more vulnerable to phylloxera is the vitis vinifera rootstock-a species native to Europe and Central Asia and responsible for a majority of the world's wine production. In the 1860s, vine cuttings from the eastern United States transmitted phylloxera to Europe, and eventually most of the vineyards in France and many in other parts of Europe were totally devastated. The parasite eventually spread, causing grave problems in California and other parts of the world including Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The solution was to graft Vitis vinifera vines to native American rootstocks, a remedy that worked for the better part of a century. There are a few places around the world that phylloxera has never invaded either because of the remote location of the vineyards or the inhospitable soil makeup. Many of these vineyards are planted on Vitis vinifera rootstock. Some parts of Australia, Argentina, Chile are phylloxera free as are island vineyards on Crete, Cyprus and Rhodes and a few isolated areas like Spain's colares doc.

Source: Answers.com; Wine Lover's Companion - R & S Herbst

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