Wine writing is full of discussions about different grapevine varieties, often with mentions of the soils they are growing in. But usually ignored is the thing that links the two together – the vine rootstock. Rootstocks influence how grapes ripen. Hence, they indirectly influence how wine tastes. So why don’t we hear more about them? OK, the rootstock is pretty much out of sight in a vineyard and lacks glamour, but it is the engine of vine growth and is crucial to a vine’s defences against soil predators.

The concept of vine rootstocks came to the fore during the phylloxera crisis of the late 19th century, when Europe’s defenceless grapevines were saved by grafting them onto phylloxera-resistant North American roots. The history is well documented, though the pivotal role of vineyard soils much less so. It’s a fascinating story...

Of roots and soils

Early attempts at grafting the fruiting part of , the European grapevine which produces superior-tasting wines, onto a. Its roots grafted well and showed good resistance to America’s indigenous vine louse.

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