2. THE RECONSTITUTION
L. LALIMAN: Proposes the GRAFTING in 1869
At the Viticole Congress in Beaune in November 1869, L. Laliman, a winemaker and collector from Bordeaux, proposed GRAFTING as a response to evil : THE PHYLLOXERA. He had already experimented with the technique to fight against powdery mildew as early as in 1959: "By grafting our vines applied to strains of America, we will manage to fight powdery mildew vigorously. Neither powdery mildew nor vermin are to be feared with the American grape varieties, which one day be the golden goose of our winemakers". If his ambitious prognostications were not fully founded, there is no doubt that the genius L. Laliman deserves the recognition of the population of the "Americanists". However he was plagiarized, after being excommunicated (it was falsely claimed that he had introduced the Phylloxera).
G. BAZILLE: Paternity of the idea of grafting?
G. Bazille took ownership of the idea of grafting in order to resolve the conflict with the enemy : the aphid. This current was supported by passionate scientists and practitioners, including Victor Pulliat, who campaigned tirelessly, through lectures and courses, for grafting on resistant rootstocks, to renew the vineyard ravaged by the insect. Thus the current called "Americanist" arose and a wine movement, quite unique and immense in its scope, it was called the Reconstitution.
The indisputable benefit of grafting? It is generalizable.
This method of control against Phylloxera had the immense advantage, unlike the previous ones, of being absolutely generalizable to all vineyards, and accessible to humble winemakers.
So policies favoured this comfortable solution in the short term.
Transplant schools were created, and many winemakers were introduced to this easy access practice.
1. THE QUARREL BETWEEN SULFURISTS AND AMERICANISTS
To combat this insect, researchers and professionals in the sector, in America and in Europe, proposed many solutions, sometimes quite fanciful.
Three currents were dominating.
Hybridization, by crossing European (qualitative fruit) and American (resistant roots) varieties, was seen as the solution of the future. But several decades were necessary to obtain new varieties. Therefore this current was in withdrawal from quarrels.
On the other hand, a real ideological war ignited the debates, between the sulfurists and the Americanists.
This ideological and technical war contrasted two conceptions of viticulture. The «Americanists» advocated the systematic grafting of European varieties on rootstocks naturally immune and resistant to the aphid, while the sulphurists absolutely wanted to preserve the old vines, and prevent the denaturation of the wines, by fighting against aphids by all means, thanks to flooding, exploitation of sandy soils, and chemistry (carbon sulphide and potassium sulfocarbonate). These techniques were very expensive and not very generalizable.
Today, the term “sulphurist” or “sulphator” is pejorative, but, make no mistake, ecology was not the motivation of the debates of the time, in neither of the two currents. It should not be forgotten that it was the Americanists (Ravaz, PAV 1919, who advocated the use of arsenical products to combat the moths and worms of the vine). The problem was exclusively economic.
Sometimes different techniques were combined on the same winery. Politics became involved and, even though courteous, fierce debates tore apart for two decades, the supporters of the two "schools" in colloquia, magazines, associations and winegrowers' groups.
For the "sulfurists" the most famous representatives were often exemplary winemakers who did not want to see their most qualitative vineyards wither. Among the Americanists, were the known names of the discovery of the phylloxeric plague: L. Laliman, G. Bazille, F. Sahut, J. Lichtenstein, J.E. Planchon, L. Vialla, V. Pulliat, often representatives of the Faculties and Universities of Montpellier, or of learned societies, scientistists by nature, and often ambitious career or political.
In France, at Beaune, in 1869, grafting was proposed as the best solution to implement; this decision was strongly encouraged by the policies.
This current "Americanist": Bazille, Laliman, Pulliat (Beaujolais) grew, supported by conferences, publications and grafting courses.
This method had the great benefit of being easily generalizable. Thus, transplant schools were created.
THE BOTANIST LUCIEN DANIEL
It was in the context of disputes between Americanists and Sulphurists that the eminent botanist of the University of Rennes, Lucien Daniel, an experienced grafter in the horticultural fields, was commissioned by the French Government in 1903, to assess the impact of grafting the vine during the reconstitution.
L. Daniel was classified as a “sulfurist” because you can’t help but categorize people by existing cleavages, but that was probably wrong. Indeed, if he opposed the Americanists, it was not on the substance, but on the form.
Above all, he questioned the way in which grafting was immediately generalized to the entire vineyard.
His proven recommendations in other agronomic fields were that the "graft/rootstock" assemblies should be tested on a case-by-case basis and evaluated for viability before deciding on its generalisation. He held the same position for the vine and the Phylloxera. L. Daniel ended its work in this office in 1908, more for political and ideological reasons, than for technical reasons.
It is a pity that this eminent grafter, such as Cassandra, was not listened to because, he was not at all against grafting vines, quite on the contrary, but he only warned against its disorderly generalization.
He actually predicted many problems of modern viticulture (See also: Problematic - Contemporary vineyards).
"N'a-t-on pas vu chez nous en Bourgogne, dans certaines vignes provignées, qui avaient cinq à six cent ans de plantation, les souches parcourir sous terre des distances énormes, plusieurs centaines de toises peut-être, et cependant, n'offrir jamais à l'observateur superficiel que des ceps de dix, douze, quinze ans d'âge au plus…"
M.Bosc. "Cours complet d'Agriculture" (dirigé par l’Abbé Rozier); 1822
« C’est de la perfection des soudures que dépendent surtout la vigueur et la longévité des vignes greffées. […]
On cherche souvent la cause du dépérissement de beaucoup de ceps dans des phénomènes plus ou moins caractérisés, alors qu’elle réside simplement dans une mauvaise soudure »
La Revue de Viticulture, 1895.