European Grapes and Their Old American Roots

Europe has been making wine for centuries. In fact wine making goes all the way back to the Roman period and the Romans spread their wine making to just about every land they conquered. Though, the wine industry was almost lost in the 1800’s. Thanks to a little aphid-like bug called the phylloxeras.


(Image from Just Wine)

It all started when Thomas Jefferson went to Europe on a diplomatic trip. He fell in love with the wines of France, so when he returned to the US, he brought a few European grapevines back with him and decided to try planting them at his Monticello Estate since the native American grape vines, the North American Fox and Scuppernong, were not great bases for wine.

Fox Grape

(North American Fox Grape image by My Garden Life)

Unfortunately, his European vines weren’t successful and they all withered and died. Little did he know, it was because of pests, native to the American soil, that wreaked havoc on his vines.

In turn, curious Europeans had shipped American vines to Europe to do their own experimenting. Little did they realize, those vines had those pesky aphid-like bugs, phylloxeras in them and by the late 1800’s, those bugs had destroyed nearly 90% of all European vines.


(Tuscan vineyard)

Eventually, scientists figured out how to save the European vines. Their solution was to graft the old world varietals onto the aphid resistant American rootstock. So, almost all of the world’s great European wines today are grown on good old American roots. Who would have ever thought?




Story from The Reader’s Digest by Kate Lowenstein and Daniel Gritzer



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