The U.S. is responsible for nearly destroying wine forever, and also saving it… twice!

In 1863 an American grape vine root louse hitched a ride on a native species of grape vine taken from America to England. This louse, known as phylloxera, eats grape vine roots, causing the vines to die. Not a good thing if you like wine. By 1865 the louse had made its way to the mainland and over the next 20 years it destroyed over 75% of the grape vines in Europe. You think the Europeans don’t like us now? Imagine if they were sober!

Extinction was near. They didn’t know what to do. Until one day a Texan realized that American grape vines had evolved a tolerance to the louse by growing roots with thick, strong bark. The European vines could be grafted onto American roots, and thus be saved. And that’s what they did. One by one, every vine in Europe was grafted onto American roots, thus saving the vines from extinction. What I want to know is did we charge them for those American roots used to save the European vines from the American louse… hmmm?

While our hit-louse was wreaking havoc on the European continent, the U.S. wine industry was enjoying an unprecedented boom. Coincidence… hmmm? However, it didn’t take us long to screw that up. In 1920 Prohibition cut the legs off the wine business. Never mind that Jesus himself had made some fine wine in his time, the “Drys” claimed the mention of wine in the Bible was misinterpreted grape juice. By the time Prohibition was repealed in 1933 the wine industry had been decimated, as had respect for legal authority. Another irony: the term “wino” was coined during the 1920’s… when you couldn’t drink wine… hmmm.

Well, the U.S. is now just as good at making wine as we are at making war, and perhaps a bit better actually. But there are lessons to be learned from knowing your wine history. Primarily: enjoy it now because you never know when we’re going louse it up again. And buy a round for your European friends… we owe ‘em one.

Pinot Now Recommendation:

Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel – From Lodi, California, this gargantuan flavor bomb owes some of its immensity to vines that are up to 110 years old – which means they survived louses, Prohibition, two World Wars, Vietnam, and every other pestilence in the last epoch of trouble… and they’re all the sweeter for it. Taste the love.