Known as the Great French Wine Blight of the mid-19th century, this nasty bug pretty much destroyed French vineyards in their entirety.
What is it? A simple but nasty bug or aphid that travelled from North America.
When? During the 1850s.
How did it get here? It travelled on American vines being sent to Europe on steamships.
What does it do? Sucks on the roots of the vine plant, withdrawing the saps. Whilst doing this, it also releases a venomous toxin that slowly tears the vine apart.
How much damage to Phylloxera do? Anything between 40 and 60% of vineyards were ruined across Europe, particularly in France.
How was it treated? Pesticides and various chemicals were tried, but to no avail. Vineyard owners were known to adopt their own treatments – placing toads under the vines was a common treatment, not that it worked! A solution was found in combining the vines (by means of grafting) with a phylloxera resistant vine (rootstock) from America.
Where did it thrive? Mostly in Europe, where it pretty much destroyed the land. One country that was never affected (or possibly only slightly) was Chile, suggesting that this airborne bug was unable to cross the Andes mountain range. Another area is Santorini in the Greek Islands, where vines grown on the volcanic slopes. Local opinion suggests that the volcanic ash is the chief protector from the bug.
Is it still a threat? Very much so! There is no remedy per se, and un-grafted vines still run a huge risk. But grafted vines are safe from this hostile bug.