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Bordeaux: Dangerous vine disease ‘threatens to be as destructive as Phylloxera’

A vine disease, Flavescence Dorée, is taking hold in Bordeaux, and threatening to become as big a problem as Phylloxera.

The disease – the ‘golden’ name comes from the colour that it turns the leaves before they die off – is carried by the cicadelle (an insect known as a leaf hopper) and causes the slow destruction of vines.

This leads initially to heavy loss of yields, and eventually to the loss of entire vineyards.

The disease itself is not new, and is now apparent in almost every wine region of France, but has been resurgent in the vines of Bordeaux in recent years.

Nicola Allison at Chateau de Seuil in the Graves region is due to grub up plots of Sauvignon Blanc vines, and all the vines outside the Maison des Vins de Graves in Podensac have been entirely removed.

Jean-Louis Viviere, president of Maison des Graves, told decanter.com, ‘This is a serious problem across France, and the authorities are watching it closely.’

‘Legally, we have to pull up any vines that are affected by Flavescance Dorée, and carry out preventative treatments on all vines within the same area, including neighbouring vineyards. But the vineyard we have here was always experimental, and we are taking the opportunity to replant with better rootstock.’

‘We may be sleepwalking towards another Phylloxera crisis,’ Allison told decanter.com.

‘The problem is that even if we are following the official decree to pull up affected vines, and treat the remaining vineyard, if our neighbours don’t do the same, the disease will continue to build up. And so far there is only prevention, not cure.’

Cedric Ealia of the regional Ministry of Agriculture said it was impossible to say how much of the region was affected, as a study would be prohibitively expensive to carry out.

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Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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