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Last Bordeaux mixture factory closes

La Cornubia, the last factory to produce the famous ‘Bouillie Bordelaise’ (Bordeaux mixture) in the Gironde, has ceased trading.

The fungicide originally created as a treatment for downy mildew – Plasmopara viticola – has been made in the region since 1885.

This fungal disease was first noticed in Europe after post-Phylloxera graftings in the 1870s and the solution, developed by Alexis Millardet, became the first successful fungicide to be used in vineyards.

Winemakers in the Médoc had for centuries sprinkled their vines with a thick mixture of copper sulphate, lime, and water, since the unappetizing appearance discouraged thieves from stealing the grapes. In October 1882, Millardet noticed that the mixture also controlled the downy mildew and suggested its application as a fungicide.

Its efficacy was noted on other plants and vegetables and it quickly became the first fungicide to receive large-scale use the world over, ushering in a new era in the technology of agriculture.

La Cornubia factory, now owned by US firm Phibro-tech, was opened in 1906 by the English Dennis brothers on the right bank of the Garonne river, opposite the docks busy with wine merchants and shippers.

Times, however, have changed. Charles Wilson, finance director of La Cornubia, said, ‘Traditional methods of combating disease in the vineyards have been overtaken by newer chemical pesticides and by more modern, dust-free forms of copper fungicides. The traditional Bordeaux mixture has had an enormous impact on viticulture, and we are proud of our contribution.’

Written by Jane Anson

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