Did you know that Missouri, saved the French wine industry from ruin in the 1870’s?
It was called the Great French Wine Blight. French vineyards were dying and people feared that the entire European wine industry would be wiped out. A parasite had come from America and found the French roots to be particularly tasty.
George Hussmann (a viticulturist from MU College) and Charles V. Riley (Missouri’s first entomologist) were among scientists called from around the world to help investigate the problem. They discovered an infestation of phylloxera ( a small American plant louse spread by aphids). Riley knew that it would be impossible to eradicate the insect once it got hold of the plants. However, some American rootstocks were immune to the louse. So they suggested grafting French vines onto the American rootstocks. By doing so, healthy grapes could be produced. Ten million rootstocks were gathered from Hermann, Neosho, and Sedalia and shipped to France.
It worked! To celebrate the success, two statues were erected in Monpellier, France. One of which is a young woman cradling an old woman in her arms (signifying the New World saving the Old World). Hussmann was then recognized by the French government and later moved to Hermann, California and became the founding father of the Napa Valley wine industry. So, I guess you could say that Missouri both saved the French wine industry, and started the California wine industry. And, I think we still do it the best!