Contemporary

Vineyards

THE PREDICTIONS OF LUCIEN DANIEL

 

 

 

It was in this context 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 “sulphurist” 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).



He then predicted all the actual problems of modern viticulture:

1- Decrease in the life expectancy of vines:

Since 1894, when he was not yet on a government mission, his specialist opinion on the grafting was formal; "As for the question of the duration of grafted trees … it is now demonstrated, with a few exceptions, that grafting is a debilitating operation, exposing both plants to the more intense attacks of animal and plant parasites and causing them to die more quickly.” ("Parasites and grafted plants")


2. Increase in cryptogamic diseases: There is a double action of the graft.

On the one hand, regardless of the grafting technique used, it generates the formation of a bulge that necessarily alters the physiology and consequently the nutrition of the new plant. Each bulge is therefore unique and develops at its own pace under multiple influences, not only in the moment of its primitive formation, but throughout its life. For this reason, according to L. Daniel, "The action of cosmic agents is more abrupt and deeper on grafted plants, because the bulge opposes the rapid passage of raw sap".

 

 

Second is the action of the watery plethora.

Either the rootstock is more vigorous than the graft of Vitis vinifera, which is the most common case. In this case, the graft receives more sap than it is entitled to, expect in its natural state - that is to say, straight-from-the-foot. He then compensates this aqueous excess by developing his vegetative apparatus, wood, foliage, fruits. These then have finer dandruff, they become more watery, and become subject to the privileged attacks of cryptogamic diseases.

 

In the second more rare case where the rootstock is less vigorous than the graft, the graft does not receive the inflow of sap sufficiently to resist naturally, and is thus weakened, and more attacked by parasites and predators of all kinds. Thus, in both cases, the grafted neoformed plant becomes more vulnerable.

 

 

3- Decrease in the quality of wines:

On this more subjective point, the debate was bitter between "Americanists" and their opponents. Anxious to justify the Reconstitution, the former affirmed that no significant difference could be demonstrated between the wines from own-rooted vines and those from grafted vines.

Yet, many of the most qualitative winemakers, fiercely resisted grafting for reasons of wine quality, and they did so for a long time.  

Mr. Pineau, Manager of the Château Brane-Cantenac explained that following comparative experiments: "The bouquet of own-rooted vines is fine and prolonged; that of grafted vines is short and dry, without distinction… The grafting vary the vine and especially the wine".

Even the Chateau Margaux, whose stage manager, Mr. Mouneyres, said: "I am so convinced that it is impossible to make excellent wine with grafted vines that I had all the roots of American vines pulled out, the ones in Margaux ". 

 

We could cite notable references in the opposite direction, because it is obvious that it is difficult to market your wine by boasting its imperfections, but even if only on objective technical points such as the age of the vines and the quality of the rooting, we must recognize that the "own-rooted vines", as was then said, have superior organoleptic qualities, since the "grafts" no longer live as long.

 

4- The excess of chemistry in wines:

L. Daniel already deplored in 1927, the excess of chemistry as a result of the fragility of grafted vineyards.  He explained that: Most accidents and diseases of wines have as their origin a defective constitution of the grapes caused, either by bad maturation, or by the action of insects or parasitic cryptogames in the vine”:

"From long ago, which could be called herbal medicine, came to replace drug medicine, infinitely more dangerous, if it is not properly regulated." 

5- Loss of biodiversity:

Genetic diversity within the same species is essential to enable it to adapt to changes in its environment through evolution. As early as 1797, the famous physiologist and botanist T.A. Knight explained the effects of gravitation on seedlings (especially on roots), and how degradation of fruit trees was transmitted by grafting.

 

He then predicted the disappearance of the old native varieties, especially apples and pears.  

A Horticultural Congress held in Angers in 1903, in the midst of the phylloxeric war, proclaimed: « The degeneration of fruit varieties as a result of their reckless grafting - and he demanded that serious steps be taken to preserve our best varieties threatened with extinction as had been foreseen by the famous English physiologist Knight, a hundred years ago…".

L.D. thus made a parallel observation between what is in arboriculture, and what will happen in viticulture, by opposing the "Americanists", for whom, by the game of the more successful adaptation of rootstocks to different soils and climates, each variety finds a more "pointed" adaptation to each plot through a suitable rootstock in terms of soil, climate, precocity, etc. On the contrary, he wrote in La question phylloxérique in 1908: Grafting has thus temporarily saved our grape varieties, but by committing the future. It will most likely kill old varieties in the long run». He renewed the warning in the autumn of his career:

Today the question of the degeneration and death of exclusively vegetative plants seems to have no more doubts for naturalists".

The phylloxeric crisis showed the weakening of our varieties of Vine following the cuttings, then the grafting…”

STATE OF CONTEMPORARY VINEYARDS

 

What is the current situation.

 

 

Let’s look at the five main points announced by Lucien Daniel:

1. Decrease in vineyards’ life expectancy :

The accounting depreciation of the vines is now 25 years, which represents more or less their health condition. On average in Europe, the vines are pulled out around their thirtieth year, depending on their fragility and sensitivity to certain factors aggravating their premature decline. At this age, several tens of percent of the plants have been replanted. 

 

This wine-growing consumerism fatten up certain professions of selection, production and marketing of vines, but in no case benefits the winemakers or the ecology.

 

2. Increase in cryptogamic diseases.

It seems common sense that a well-fed, healthy individual will be more resistant to predators of all kinds than an ill and suffering individual.  How can we not think of the theory of trophobiosis developed by Henri Chaboussou in the 1980s, according to which the excess of pesticides carries with it an increased fragility of plants towards diseases ?

 

Our idea is that Phylloxera has its place in the biosphere, and the American vines show that the insect can perfectly lives with the plants. Even Vitis vinifera have demonstrated that the aphid is not necessarily a pathogen, but possibly a regulator that, in case of stress or imbalance of the plant, would become a pathogen.

 

 

3. Decrease in wine quality.

Once again, this point of debate is necessarily subjective, even if the vast majority of discerning tasters recognize much more depth of complexity, finesse and elegance to wines derived from own-rooted vines. 

 

Even the most refractory ones will have to recognize that well-established and deeply anchored roots in the ground, are more resistant to climatic hazards (global warming has good back) than a poorly implanted individual.

 

 

4. Excess chemistry in wines.

Is wine still a natural product? 

 

Here is an extract of the chemical inputs and practices authorized in wine by the European Community regulations, in addition to exogenous yeasts: citric acid, tartaric acid, ascorbic acid, malic acid, lactic acid, metatartaric acid, acidification by electro-membrane treatment, reverse osmosis, potassium bicarbonate, potassium bisulphite, ammonium bisulphite, calcium carbonate, carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) …

5. Loss of biodiversity: the historical record is overwhelming.

Out of the 210 grape varieties currently authorized in France, 10 of them represent more than 70% of all the planted vines ; while the very much respected Pr Pierre Galet has listed more than 9,600 in the world.

According to A. Raynal-Roque, Professor at the Museum of Natural History, species are disappearing today a million times faster than they appear. And very few of the horticultural forms obtained by man during the millennia have survived until today. We are still talking about fruit varieties, but the situation is worse at the rootstock level. There are fewer than 50 grown on the market today.

We are doing eugenics...