The mid-19th century France was a nation in crisis, torn apart and ravaged by little understood foreign forces. People lost their jobs. Businesses closed down. People fled the country to America and Africa for a better life. It cost the country 10 billion Francs, forcing them to reconstitute everything from scratch.
The crisis is known as the Great French Wine Blight, when over 40% of French grape vines were devastated.
Their vineyards were under attack from American vine lice known as phylloxera, which originally came from the States and fed on vine sap and nutrients, and no existing chemicals or pesticides would work on them. So they were running out of wine (and other wine derivatives) fast; one could say the very French way of life itself was under threat.
Some vineyard owners and winemakers became so desperate that they tied toads to each vine, while others resorted to chickens doing the same job bestowed upon the toads. Needless to say, these didn’t really work.
The solution only came when the existing French vines and imported phylloxera-resistant American vines resistant were combined by means of grafting. To this day there is still no remedy and most of French vines (not all) are of this European-American combination.
I suspect French wine-drinkers wouldn’t particularly want to bring this up. So I dare you. Go on. Mention it tonight and see what happens.
Have a good Friday