Yet Another Reason Texas is Great
There is a terrible little bug that lives to destroy entire wine regions called Phylloxera. It is a teeny, tiny, almost microscopic aphid-like, sap-sucking monster that poisons the roots of grape vines with its various activities. In 1880, vineyards of France were under siege from this devastating spawn.
With growing frustration and vineyard losses, the wine growers in France’s Cognac region decided to take action. They tasked a French scientist named Pierre Viala to cure the disastrous Phylloxera plague once and for all. Of course Viala turned to Texas for the answer. (Why wouldn’t he?) He sought out the viticultural genius (everyone in Texas is a genius) Thomas Volney (T.V.) Munson for the cure.
Munson’s research demonstrated that Texas’ grape vine rootstock was resistant to Phylloxera. Munson took Viala to Central Texas where the limestone soils were very similar to those of Cognac. Munson decidedly stated that the only way to save the entire French wine industry was to graft French grape vine with Texas rootstocks. Viala agreed.
Munson, his crew and Viala worked with landowners for four months in Central Texas to fill 15 wagons with dormant grape vine stem cuttings that were carefully species-identified. The wagons were then loaded on three ships for transport to France. Once the vines arrived in France, they were bred to be used for rootstock in French vineyards. That rootstock from Texas cuttings saved the French, and eventually the entire European, wine industry.
Texas never tires of utilizing its superior intellect to save suffering peoples. For all his efforts and knowledge, Munson was awarded the Legion of Honor, the Chevalier du Merite Agricole, by the French Government. In 1888, Munson was inducted into the French Legion of Honor and 100 years later, to commemorate the award a centennial celebration was held both in Cognac and Denison.