Wines, vines, and get away from mine!

I usually see something, read something, have something sent to me that strikes me.  It inspires me.  Then I look into it a mite more and formulate a (mostly brilliant if I do say so myself) post about it.  But lately, I admit to feeling a bit lackluster when it comes to stimulating inventiveness (see yesterday’s confession).  So I sit here tonite, with my glass of wine, on my patio listening to the evening micro-symphonies and watching the rain clouds slowly navigate the skies.  The breeze flows through with the promise of fall and I sit and I sip and I ponder the entomological universe.

Winged adult

So I sip my wine, a nice pinot noir from Oregon, and think about the grapes that nobly sacrificed their lives to produce this fine libation.  Grapes are mostly self pollinated so require little to no insect interventions.  However, insects have had a crucial roll in viticulture.  In the mid to late 1800’s, French vineyards were being decimated by a mysterious blight.  It was discovered by Jules-Emile Planchon and Charles Valentine Riley that an aphid called the grape phylloxera (most likely Daktulosphaira vitofoliae) was responsible.  These insects have a very complex life cycle of up to eighteen stages!  These dastardly denizens (and the secondary fungal infections that can occur) can girdle roots, gradually cutting off the flow of nutrients and water to the vine.  Thus killing the grape plant (wiping out nearly all of France’s vineyards in the late 19th century) and thwarting the fabulous fermentation of the fruits to one of my favorite libations.  Oh the horror!  What was to be done about this reprehensible plague?

wine phylloxera
A cartoon from Punch from 1890: The phylloxera, a true gourmet, finds out the best vineyards and attaches itself to the best wines.

Turns out, almost nothing.  To date, there is still no “cure” for the grape phylloxera.  Conventional pesticides are mostly ineffectual.  The only thing that can be done is graft the susceptible vines with a resistant root stock.  An American root stock.  So despite an entomological epidemic, the vineyards were saved.  There are still insects numerous insect species that need to be managed in wine grapes, but the major crisis from grape phylloxera has been mostly averted by the hardy american root stock that the vines are now grafted to.  Allowing me to drink my pinot noir and contemplate why I haven’t been able to come up with an entomologically inspired post.

Ah well, there is always tomorrow.  And it looks like a fly just fell into my wine glass.  I really should not begrudge it, the wine is good.  So until the entomological inspiration manages to strike me, keep spreading the entomological awesomeness my friends.



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