The use of separate rootstock – essentially a clump of roots – onto which the vines are grafted was made necessary by the arrival of Phylloxera. The precious Vitis vinifera varieties, such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, quickly keel over and die in the presence of Phylloxera infestation. The American Vitis labrusca species, however, are resistant. Unfortunately Vitis labrusca does not make world-class wine. The solution – graft vinifera plants onto Phylloxera-resistant rootstock, which was originally Vitis labrusca, but today is more likely to be a labrusca-vinifera hybrid, or another vine species altogether such as Vitis berlandieri, Vitis riparia or Vitis rupestris. The vast majority of modern vineyards are planted using grafted material.
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