My journeys on the tram these last weeks have been enlivened by this book – Phylloxera. Like all the best stories, we have a malevolent baddie – and an ugly one – that’s bent on the destruction of (wine) ‘civilisation’. As the detective work unfurls the deadly ‘enemy’ takes many names; Peritymbia vitisana, Pemphigus vitifolii, Daktulosphaira, Viteus vitifolii, Rhizaphis vastatrix and Phylloxera vastatrix. Today, science knows it as Daktulosphaira vitifolii but the name ‘phylloxera’ persits. Don’t however assume that this is just history told; in California the destruction of previously resistant vines has recently heralded the arrival of phylloxera ‘Biotype B’ – the problem starts afresh.
The book is packed full of biggots, self promoters and always until it’s too late – denial. A fully recommended narrative that’s more like a novel than social history.
As routes to bypass the effect of the ‘louse’ were found, prices started to tumble for what we might now call vin de pays – riots and death were the result – the timing of guerrilla action in the Languedoc with the appearance of Biotype B is strangely coincidental.