History of Wine Ampelology — ampelography (3)

History of Wine Ampelology — ampelography

When the Vikings crossed the Atlantic, they called Vinland (“land of wine”) the area they stumbled upon because of the abundance of vines they saw there. But none of these plants were Vitis vinifera L., and all attempts to make wine from them yielded unsatisfactory results. At the beginning of the 16th century, the Spanish brought Vitis vinifera to America, but not with the intention of producing quality wines that could rival those from Europe. What they were looking for was to make wine for religious purposes. These species of vines are called “criolla” in South America and “mission” (mission vine) in California. At the beginning of the 19th century, interest in good wines that could compete with their European counterparts was awakened in America.

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From 1850 to 1870, Europe’s vineyards were severely affected by phylloxera and other diseases. The solution was to link existing species to American rootstocks, which allowed them to become more resistant to the pest. The Canary Islands and Chile still preserve traditional vineyards that never succumbed to the destruction of phylloxera and that, therefore, can be cultivated without the need for rootstocks. In addition, some vineyards in Portugal and some in Jerez, such as Palomino de Jerez, Palomino fino and Pedro Ximénez, also share this distinction, since their vines grow very deep in the soil and are more resistant.

To take advantage of the advantages of European and American strains, certain crosses were developed, mainly in France. These hybrids bear the name of the person who created them, along with a number, for example, Seibel 5455. Unfortunately, these experiments have not been very fruitful. The government, which strictly controls rootstocks, and farmers continue to have doubts about this.

The suitability of vineyards to produce wine or brandy depends on the characteristics of the climate and the terrain. In general, the best options are the traditional ones that exist in each country. This is suggested by the European Union. Royal Decree 1195/85, of 5 June, with complementary regulations, determined the types of vines for Spain, recommending or approving their use depending on the different Spanish regions.

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Previously, Regulation 418/86 of the European Community regulated the matter, although that specific regulation has become obsolete due to its transitional nature. When it comes to wine appellations of origin, not only the geographical origin is taken into account, but also the variety of vines; each region is assigned the most suitable or even mandatory vineyards. Failure to comply with these regulations within the European Community means not being able to use the denomination of origin for commercial purposes, in addition to not being able to mention the type of grape used for wine and not having access to agricultural subsidies.

Annex V of Royal Decree 1472/2000, of 4 August, contains an extensive inventory of the varieties agreed by each Autonomous Community. In addition, it lists the types of rootstocks whose use is recommended. In this case, it is not possible to choose simply authorized varieties, so the recommended rootstocks are mandatory.

Wine is produced from grapes, which are part of the biological family of Vitaceae, plants that have the capacity to adhere to solid surfaces. This family is made up of eleven genera, but only Vitis is worth mentioning when it comes to viticulture. This genus has sixty species, but it is only the wine variety that provides the types of wine that are popularly known (of Indo-European origin). In addition to the vinifera, there are also North American vines V. labrusca, V. riparia, V. aestivalis, V. rotundifolia, etc. However, of all the species of the genus Vitis, only the vineyard provides the wine preferred by many cultures around the world.

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In the 19th century, grafts were made to create plants that were more immune to pest attacks. This was the case in 1863, when American varieties were imported to Europe and introduced the Phylloxera vastratix fly to the vineyards. This posed a problem, since European species were unable to withstand the fly attack. Other insect pests have had a detrimental effect on Vitis vinifera, so different methods have been used to combat them.

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