An extant 95-year old grapevine in the Old Wynberg Village is likely the Cévennes Jacquez cultivar.

2017-01-17 14:20

On the 6th of October 2016 in MyNews24, I published an article entitled: "South Africa's phylloxera outbreak was initially tackled by grafting its grapevines onto a Jacquez seedling".

That particular Jacquez seedling is now referred to as the 'Cévennes Jacquez'.

Introduction…

The original Madeira Jacquez cultivar (a.k.a. Barbera paesana in northern Italy) was the result of a natural hybridization event that took place between the American species Vitis aestivalis x Vitis cinerea and an 'unknown' European Vitis vinifera pollen donor. The preliminary results of Microsatellite DNA analysis (a.k.a. Simple Sequence Repeats or SSR's) performed on the original Madeira Jacquez revealed that the 'unknown' Vitis vinifera pollen donor was, very likely, either the French cultivar Cabernet franc or Carignan (a.k.a. Careñena in Spain).

That chance pollination event and subsequent selection likely took place in the southeastern region of Colonial America (either in South Carolina or Georgia) sometime during the 18th century.

We are now aware of 5 different seedling cultivars which have all been derived as a result of self-pollination of the original Madeira Jacquez cultivar (with subsequent selection). Those seedlings have been propagated for decades under various names such as Black Spanish, Lenoir, Favorite and even White Herbemont. The 5th seedling is now called the Cévennes Jacquez.

Background to the phylloxera crisis…

The propagation of the Jacquez cultivar in France was initiated urgently as a direct response to the phylloxera scourge which began devastating French vineyards from 1863 onwards.

Jacquez, and its ancient clone, Herbemont, were now being employed as rootstocks onto which the sensitive European Vitis vinifera grapevine cultivars were grafted. This provided some temporary protection against the phylloxera aphid which generally sucks on the softer roots of the Vitis vinifera and eventually kills the vine. The so-called 'Old Hybrids', which included Jacquez and Herbemont (among others) were found to have some degree of natural resistance against phylloxera. This natural resistance was believed to be the result of their wild American Vitis inheritance. However, it was soon discovered that their roots were only moderately resistant to phylloxeraattacks, likely because of the significant vinifera content in their parentage.

The idea behind Direct Producer Hybrids (DPH's)…

Both during the phylloxera crisis and even sometime afterwards, many of those old hybrid varieties were also 'directly' planted in some vineyards (as opposed to being used as rootstocks). This particular practice gave them the name 'direct producer hybrids' (DPH's) which were employed in making cheaper quality wines.

However, in 1935 all DHP's were banned in France. Many other European countries followed suite.

However, in France, despite the ban, Jacquez continued to be cultivated until the 1960's in some municipalities such as in the foothills of the Lure mountain (Provence) and in the Cévennes Regional Natural Park. Limited cultivation of Jacquez, Herbemont and other American hybrids in the Cévennes region is now officially recognized as being part of the region's heritage. The rustic red wines produced from the Jacquez, for example, may now be legally made provided that they are derived from very old established Jacquez cultivars (no new ones can be planted) and only to be sold locally.

Jacquez was also extensively cultivated in Portugal and was included in the large-scale red Madeira wine until the 1980's before the European Union (EU) banned that practice. However, on the Madeira Islands themselves, Jacquez may be cultivated for local wine production only.

Nonetheless, the EU strictly enforces their new rules which were incorporated into the European legal order in 1999 and directly affects all Member States in one way or another.

How the Cape Colony solved its Phylloxera crisis…

The phylloxera scourge at the Cape Colony was discovered in 1886 in a vineyard in the suburb of Mowbray, 23 years after the phylloxera's appearance in France. Within 10 years it had spread to most of the Cape's winegrowing regions destroying at least a quarter of the Cape's vines.

In order to try to save the wine industry from total depredation by the phylloxera aphid, the Cape Colony, in 1891, imported a batch of 'Old Hybrid' rootstocks from the Federal College of Viticulture, Oenology and Fruit at Klosterneuburg, Austria which included the Cévennes Jacquez and Herbemont cultivars amongst others.

The Cévennes Jacquez went on to become the most successfully employed rootstock which lasted until the middle of the 1960's when it was largely replaced by the 100% American hybrid rootstock cultivars such as 99 Richter and 101-14 Mgt and others. While Jacquez was not recommended to be used as a rootstock in Europe and in the United States of America (because of its poor phylloxera resistance), it had successfully endured in South Africa for over 60 years, although Jacquez was not universally adaptable to all soil types.

One of the main reasons why South Africa was more fortunate with its 'Jacquez' rootstock than Europe or the USA, was because the Cévennes Jacquez rootstock is likely more phylloxera-resistant than the other two Jacquez seedling cultivars, namely Black Spanish and Lenoir. According to Microsatellite DNA analysis, these latter two cultivars were the most commonly employed Jacquez seedling rootstocks in both Europe and the USA during the phylloxera crisis.

Conclusion…

It has now become apparent that one of the oldest surviving specimens of the Cévennes Jacquez cultivar is 'quietly' growing in the Old Wynberg Village (Little Chelsea) in the region of Durban Road. This old Jacquez is on a property that, in days gone by, was the local Village Inn known as Prince Albert Arms Tavern and Cottage. It would have been planted around 1922 making it approximately 95 years old. It is highly probable that this Jacquez originated from a cutting obtained from the oldest known rootstock motherblock in South Africa where the original rootstocks were curated at the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute just outside Stellenbosch.

Isn't that an amazing story! 

Dr Jerry Rodrigues (16 January 2017)

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