In the 1863, an American aphid infestation devastated France’s grapevines, destroying the entire wine industry. It was only saved by grafting Calif. grape-rootstock onto French grapevines, making them resistant to the bugs. To this day, all French wine-grapes are still grown with American roots.
“The Great French Wine Blight was a severe blight of the mid-19th century that destroyed many of the vineyards in France and laid to waste the wine industry. It was caused by an aphid (the actual genus of the aphid is still debated, although it is largely considered to have been a species of Daktulosphaira vitifoliae, commonly known as grape phylloxera) that originated in North America and was carried across the Atlantic in the late 1850s. While France is considered to have been worst affected, the blight also did a great deal of damage to vineyards in other European countries.
How the Phylloxera aphid was introduced to Europe remains debated: American vines had been taken to Europe many times before, for reasons including experimentation and trials in grafting, without consideration of the possibility of the introduction of pestilence. While the Phylloxera was thought to have arrived around 1858, it was first recorded in France in 1863, near the former province of Languedoc. It is argued by some that the introduction of such pests as phylloxera was only a problem after the invention of steamships, which allowed a faster journey across the ocean, and consequently allowed durable pests, such as the Phylloxera, to survive.
Eventually, following Jules-Emile Planchon’s discovery of the Phylloxera as the cause of the blight, and Charles Valentine Riley’s confirmation of Planchon’s theory, Leo Laliman and Gaston Bazille, two French wine growers, proposed that the European vines be grafted to the resistant American rootstock that were not susceptible to the Phylloxera. While many of the French wine growers disliked this idea, many found themselves with no other option. The method proved to be an effective remedy. The following “”Reconstitution”” (as it was termed) of the many vineyards that had been lost was a slow process, but eventually the wine industry in France was able to return to relative normality”