Esca : cancer of the vine

Esca : cancer of the vine

Esca is an infection affecting wood and spreading over a large proportion of the French and European winegrowing areas.

An article in the French business newspaper, Les Echos on 12 October, referred to an appeal worldwide for research made by the famous Hennessy cognac company – part of the prestigious LVMH group; according to this article, 12% of the vines in the Cognac district are affected.

You may ask why we refer to the Cognac district when we are concerned by Burgundy: well, the reason is simply that an appeal instigated by such a successful and well known group as LVMH can only have a positive effect on other regions, such as Burgundy, where the risks are the same.

Very often professional bodies and the press mention the lower yields of our various appellations but tend to attribute this to climatic factors: we , however, are fully aware that our winegrowing methods are changing and indeed, they must change because only man is responsible for production conditions and the subsequent crop yield: Nature can only return what we invest and it is true to say that for decades we have produced rather like a race-horse but ultimately, the horse ends up in the slaughter-house – just as the vine plant on the bonfire!

Esca is a kind of mushroom which penetrates and develops in the trunk and causes the branches to rot: in 2004, a certain Mr.Florian Bassini wrote a paper which translates freely as follows: On account of the many factors entering into the origin of esca which were found during its study, it would appear necessary to reconsider all those aspects which probably render the vine vulnerable; this is not a means to an end but should set the objective towards an equilibrium between man,the vine, agriculture in general and Nature. Taking all the aspects concerned into consideration should mean that better methods may be found which are more respectful of Nature and make it possible to eventually do away with some methods even though today they may appear indispensable. For example, how can the vine be safeguarded with its own immune system against the effects of infection? (selection and cultivation ...?); What are the different causes which make the vine sensitive to infection? Is a disease necessarily harmful or, could it be regarded as a normal reaction by an organism which is completely off balance?...

I heartily support our colleagues in Cognac in their drive to obtain funds for research work from all sectors of activity concerned by the wine trade such that the future of winegrowing in the long term will be assured, particularly with regards the principle of a balanced eco-system.
We cannot rely on politicians who have no vision and no will to help research: there will be no more votes for that cause!
So is life and we must give all our support to private initiative wherever possible.

Francine PICARD