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Rootstocks : The secret of the cognac grape varieties

Since the phylloxera crisis, the grape varieties are grafted onto rootstocks resistant to phylloxera in the soil.
Our grape varieties (graft) are then grafted onto our rootstocks and planted in our parcels.

The Phylloxera crisis

At the end of the 19th century, the Cognac vineyard was hit by the phylloxera crisis: a devastating insect that destroyed all French vines. Thanks to Pierre Viala's research, American rootstocks that are resistant to the insect can be grafted onto the Charentais grape varieties in order to renew the plantations.

Weakened by grafting, the traditional grape varieties were quickly replaced by Ugni-Blanc. While it had experienced an exceptional rise during the 19th century, the Charente vineyard never recovered its 285,000 ha. Despite the collapse of production, Cognac continues to be marketed thanks to its large stock.

The choice of rootstocks for the Cognac region

The constraints of the choice of rootstock for the Cognac region are mainly :

  • The adaptation to the type of soil: the limestone content of the Grand Champagne soil determines our choice because these are chlorotic.
  • The pedological situation (soil formation and evolution) of the parcel.
  • The yield objective also determines the choice because a Pineau des Charentes production is lower than that of Cognac.

The role of the rootstock

The rootstock creates a link between the soil and subsoil of our plots and our grape variety. For our plots, we have chosen Ruggeri 140, one of the most chlorosis resistant rootstocks, very vigorous and very resistant to drought. It is a rootstock of choice for dry and superficial limestone slopes. As we have seen previously, the soil of Grande Champagne is mainly clay-limestone. However, it fears humidity and early frosts because of its long vegetative cycle. Its poor affinity with Ugni Blanc can be troublesome (development of "bourrolles" at the grafting point).
The grafts are surrounded by a red kerosene whose interest is to protect them from dehydration during the grafting process.

The work of the nurserymen in Charente

The etymology of pépinière (nursery) comes from the word pépin (seed). In Charente, many nurserymen exist. The work of the nursery is very meticulous and technical. Once planted, the vine will follow the cycle of the seasons and evolve, let's discover them together!

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