The Pylloxera Crisis (2) – 1879 A mild recovery


The Phyloxera – 1873 cartoon

(From the Revue des Vins et Liqueurs, Mars 1879)

The shipping transactions during the month of March furnished satisfactory results. They show a sensible improvement upon those which were concluded during the preceding month.

The shipments of cognacs sent during the month of March of this year are about equivalent to those of the year 1878, and much more considerable than those in 1877.The advantages of this equilibrium arise solely from the brandies in bottles, the quantities exported of which were superior by 846 hl. to those of 1878, whilst the other sorts receded 1,160 hl. They however equaled the exportations of February 1879. In detail we see that the English importations were kept up; those of the United States and of La Plata slightly augmented, but the divers countries took 1,200 hl. less. For the brandies in cases, the shipments, much more considerable than those of February were developed for England (+ 813 hl.), and for the Argentine Republic (+ 385 hl.), but were lower by 312 hl. for the other countries.

If we now pass on to the position itself of the article we see that the prospects of the crop in the two Charentes, have not been greatly modified during the month which has finished.
Reports have been well spread about respecting the pretended damages done by the frosts to the wine. Without doubt the frosty weather we have had has not been favorable to the buds which commenced to be developed, but as usual the evil had been singularly exaggerated, which in a general way might be considered as but of slight account, and as if to prove once more the truth of the proverb that “there is some good in all evil” the persistence of the cold will have the result of still further retarding the vegetation, and of keeping it back from the effects of further night frosts which frequently accompany the critical period known as the “russet moon.”

The Phylloxera The phylloxera on the other hand, has not given signs of being greatly talked about, although opinions have been much divided about it, some being assured that it will make no progress this year, and others sustaining the contrary idea. The prices of the brandies under all these contradictory news have scarcely varied at all. They remain very firm, but there is no new rise to speak about. In presence of the claims of the proprietors the traders keep themselves always on the reserve, the more so as news from abroad, with about a few exceptions are scarcely more than middling encouraging. The houses of first and second order are still buyers of good brandies with the object of completing their stock and supplying the insufficiencies that exist in the new brandies for which exorbitant prices continue to be asked. Business at the different markets, Cognac, Jonzac, Lajarrie, Barbezieux and La Rochelle is very dull, but has become a little firmer these last few days. The quotations in vigour are consequently the same as those of last month. We gave higher up the summary of the shipments during the month just past, and we may complete the information which they furnish already upon the situation of the exportation trade by saying that the position of the foreign markets improves very slowly, but they do improve, although the consumption has not sensibly augmented, and that on the contrary it has contracted as for example in England and the United States where the stocks commence to diminish a little, and although the shippers are inclined to persevere in continuing to practice their usual tactics of not forcing shipments, and more especially consignments, we shall see the article go up gradually.But for this we must wait our time, it must not be forgotten, for, to quote an example, it is not in a few days that a market of the third order, like Auckland, New Zealand, will get rid of the 11,000 cases and 600 quarts of brandy which have been accumulated there. We know well that all this stock is not composed of Cognac, and that more or less pure products form the base, but, as the Indicateur de Cognac very well says, there is a great deal of it, and apart from the very first marks such as Hennessy, Martell, the Otards, Denis Mounie and Renaults, it singularly paralyses the sale of really very respectable marks which occupy a very honorable place in this fine Cognac trade.
[From Wikipedia]
In the late 19th century the phylloxera epidemic destroyed most of the vineyards for wine grapes in Europe, most notably in France. Phylloxera was introduced to Europe when avid botanists in Victorian England collected specimens of American vines in the 1850s. Because phylloxera is native to North America, the native grape species there are at least partially
resistant. By contrast, the European wine grape Vitis vinifera is very susceptible to the insect. The epidemic devastated vineyards in Britain and then moved to the European mainland, destroying most of the European grape growing industry. In 1863, the first vines began to dete
riorate inexplicably in the southern Rhône region of France. The problem spread rapidly across the continent. In France alone, total wine production fell from 84.5 million hectolitres in 1875 to only 23.4 million hectolitres in 1889.
Some estimates hold that between two-thirds and nine-tenths of all European vineyards were destroyed.